St. Louis Eases Up|on Marijuana Possession

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – St. Louis will reduce the penalty for people caught with small amounts of marijuana, essentially turning a criminal offense into a ticket.
     The Board of Aldermen voted 22-3 Monday to give pot smokers a break, giving police the discretion to write people a ticket rather than arresting them.
     The city had no law on marijuana possession, so police had to enforce a more rigid state law, handcuffing and arresting suspects.
     The new law carries a penalty of a $100-$500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. It does not define a “small amount,” which will be left up to the officers’ discretion, but the Police Department is expected to write a policy on it.
     State law punishes possession of 35 grams or less with up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 35 grams is a felony.
     The bill was sponsored by Alderman Shane Cohn, who wants prosecutors and police to focus on more serious crimes.
     “I think this is a good step for the city of St. Louis,” Cohn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It doesn’t legalize marijuana, but it gives fairness.”
     Mayor Francis Slay said through a spokesman he would sign the bill into law unless a legal flaw is found. It is to take effect June 1.
     Voters in Columbia, Mo., approved a similar law in 2004.
     The Springfield, Mo. City Council approved a similar measure last year, but repealed it less than a month later under political pressure.

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