Pot Possession Could Become a Less-Serious Offense in St. Louis

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - A bill to reduce marijuana-possession penalties in St. Louis City is one step away from becoming law.


“I have seen what crack can do to the neighborhoods,” said St. Louis City resident Sentel Brown.  “An epidemic  besides the marijuana.”


That is why he supports 25th-Ward Alderman Shane Cohn and the 22 other aldermen who voted Monday to reduce penalties for those caught with no more than 35 grams of marijuana.


“You won’t have fathers being taken from their homes for marijuana that is a natural reproduction plant,” he explained.  “And then, you have people out here who are continuously getting caught with crack cases.  But, they make enough money to pay them off.”


But 23rd-Ward Alderman Joe Vaccaro was one of three who voted against the bill, which calls for a maximum fine of $500 and no jail time.  But, Vaccaro said there is a possible 90-day jail sentence waiting for anyone who breaks any city ordinance.


“That would even be illegal dumping or housing violations,” he said.


He added that he saw big loopholes in the bill.


“What happens now if you get pulled over and you have this in the car?” he asked.  “Is it like an open-container law?  Do then the police go a bit further to see if you’ve been smoking marijuana?”


Vaccaro said current common practice by law enforcement is already lenient.

“My understanding is that they would run your background.  And if you didn`t have a strong criminal background, they would basically throw the stuff away and tell you, ‘Look.  Don’t ever do that again,’” he explained.   “This is just an additional tool in a sense that they could use to make it easier by writing a traffic ticket when normally they wouldn`t do anything.”

Mayor Francis Slay still have to sign the bill into law.

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