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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Marijuana Decriminalization Up For Debate In MO House

Katheirne Hitt/Flickr, License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode

Marijuana decriminalization is up for debate in the Missouri House of Representatives.

A bill that was before the House on Thursday would reduce penalties for marijuana possession in an effort to stop what its sponsor is calling a “war on marijuana.”

The bill would reduce the punishment for possessing less than 100 grams of marijuana to an infraction. The current law in Missouri makes possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana a Class D felony.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Shamed Dogan, said this would allow law enforcement to focus on prosecuting the possession of more serious drugs like opioids, heroin and methamphetamine.

“One out of every 10 arrests in our state, one out of 10 man hours that law enforcement is spent putting handcuffs on someone is putting handcuffs on someone who is possessing marijuana,” said Dogan. “That is the most serious offense that they have.”

Six individuals testified in support of the bill at its hearing, including the police chief from New Haven and the ACLU of Missouri.

Dan Viets, an attorney out of Columbia who specializes in marijuana cases, testified in support of the bill. He said marijuana possession is not a fair reason to put someone behind bars.

“If we’re not reducing marijuana use by treating people like criminals, then what are we really accomplishing? The answer is nothing! Except to squander a lot of money and disrupt a lot of people’s lives who don’t deserve to suffer that penalty,” said Viets.