While marijuana is still illegal for recreational use in Missouri, prosecutors in our state's urban areas are increasingly making it a policy not to prosecute people for possessing small amounts of the drug. In the past seven months, prosecutors here in Jackson County as well as St. Louis County have adopted this policy. These two counties encompass about a third of the state's population of just over 6 million.
Policies of not prosecuting "low-level" marijuana offenses are in place in large metropolitan areas like New York City and Philadelphia and smaller urban areas as well. However, for a state where medical marijuana was just legalized by voters in last November's election, these decisions by county prosecutors may come as a surprise,
Not everyone is happy about those decisions -- including some lawmakers. One Lake St. Louis lawmaker called it "a subversion of our democratic process."
However, St. Louis County's new lead prosecutor, who was the latest to announce that his office wouldn't prosecute minor marijuana possession offenses, says that it's more important for his prosecutors to focus their resources and time on serious offenses like violent crimes. He says, "When I think of keeping my family safe, the person smoking a small amount of marijuana is not what I'm worried about."
He also notes that conviction for marijuana possession can cost people their jobs. He added, "I don't think anyone should see the inside of a jail cell for a small amount of marijuana."
The relaxed policies don't impact people charged with selling or distributing the drug or driving under the influence of it. It's essential to remember that under federal law, all possession of marijuana is a crime.
It's also important to remember that the state laws around recreational marijuana haven't changed -- only the policies in select counties. If you've been charged with a crime involving marijuana, it's wise to seek legal guidance to help ensure that your rights are protected.