St. Louis Alderwoman drafts marijuana legislation proposal

By Michael Layer

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green on Monday drafted a proposal of a local bill to put marijuana legalization on the ballot in St. Louis in November 2018. The proposal would decriminalize simple possession, create licensed dispensaries, and repeal local ordinances prohibiting marijuana consumption for recreational use. Because marijuana is still illegal in Missouri, Green’s bill raises questions when city laws contradict state laws.

While the bill permits recreational use for licensed residents, it prohibits use outside of private property, within 1,000 feet of day cares and schools, or on state or federal government-owned property. Additionally, law enforcement will no longer be able to conduct searches based on the reasonable suspicion that they violate any of the proposed laws in the bill.

The bill proposes that residents of St. Louis over the age of 21 are required to pay an annual fee of fifty dollars in order to obtain a license. Licensed residents would then be able to purchase up to 35 grams of marijuana for personal use per year. An additional license would be required to grow marijuana plants for personal use. Businesses could also purchase a license to cultivate the plant for sale.

Should the bill become law, it specifies how the fees would be allocated. The first 25 percent of the revenue to be spent on “communities impacted by the ‘war on drugs.’”

It says the money should be used to finance small business start-up costs for “low-income African-American individuals who have been convicted of drug crimes; early childhood education and tutoring for children whose parents are incarcerated; job training, education, and placement for those who have previously been incarcerated; or rental or downpayment assistance for those previously incarcerated.

Another 25 percent of fees will go to the St. Louis Department of Health for use in alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and drug opiate prevention programs. It will also be used to provide medically accurate education for children in school about the health and safety risk of controlled substances and alcohol.

15 percent will go to the Metropolitan Police Department to pay for officer salaries and benefits. And the remaining 35 percent will be contributed to the General Fund.

According to Green’s bill, the Board of Aldermen will propose changes to the zoning code so that each ward can accommodate at least one cultivation center – which is in charge of preparation and packaging – and one dispensary – a facility permitted to sell marijuana or related products to consumers. Under the bill, it would prevent employers from denying employment to St. Louis residents simply because they consume marijuana – provided they are off the premises during non-working hours.

Finally, the bill asks qualified St. Louis voters to vote on November 6, 2018, on whether they want to allow licensed residents to use or possess marijuana, whether they want to allow licensed businesses to sell marijuana, and whether they want licensed businesses to be able to study marijuana for medical research.

The bill’s sweeping proposals directly contract state laws, which prohibits cannabis in all forms, except for the use of cannabidiol for specific medical use. Should the bill become law, St. Louis voters may be in a situation they were in August, when they tried to raise the minimum wage. In July, the General Assembly passed HB 1193 and HB 1194 which decided that the state establishes the minimum wage.

This story originally appeared on The Missouri Times.

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