[Canniseur: Cannabis decriminalization continues its move across the country. For Missouri, the motivation is financial, as the savings are great. But the reality is, the results will be a more equitable and just prison system.]
On Thursday, a key Missouri House committee unanimously approved a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The House Special Committee on Criminal Justice voted 7-0 to approve the legislation, which would reduce the penalty for possessing fewer than 36 grams of marijuana from a felony to a class D misdemeanor, and and shift possessing 10 grams or fewer from a misdemeanor to an infraction.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), the lead sponsor of HB 1095, said in his newsletter the bill is part of an effort to push law enforcement’s focus onto more serious problems than cannabis arrests.
“I am hopeful that we can get this legislation to the Governor’s desk so that we can focus law enforcement resources on violent crime and our opioid epidemic,” he said.
After receiving input at a hearing last week and discussing the bill with the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the proposal was amended in committee to lower the possession amounts covered, which garnered support from the committee Vice Chair David Evans (R), who is a former judge, as well as Rep. Lane Roberts (R), who previously led the Missouri Department of Public Safety and served as a Joplin police chief.
The committee’s passage of the bill was first reported on the blog of cannabis lobbyist Eapen Thampy.
Thanks to the leadership of @Dogan4Rep and the support of the Missouri House Special Committee on Criminal Justice, marijuana decriminalization legislation HB 1095 has advanced and may see the House Floor late this session https://t.co/3aQ3J16L6H
— eapenthampy (@eapenthampy) April 12, 2019
In 2014, Missouri lawmakers enacted a bill to lower the penalties for possessing cannabis. Despite this, Dogan said in an interview with television station KOMU 8 that marijuana possession is still the second most common arrest after DWI in Missouri.
“That’s disproportionate and a waste of law enforcement resources when we have these opioid deaths, over 1,000, in the state of Missouri just last year,” he said.
A fiscal note on the bill estimates it could have a positive impact on net revenue of over $157,175 by 2020 and over $1,328,713 by 2026.
“Passage of HB 1095 is estimated to result in 30 fewer persons incarcerated and 383 fewer persons entering probationary supervision per year in DOC,” the analysis says. “The full impact of the bill occurs in FY26 with 90 fewer persons incarcerated and 1,269 fewer persons on field supervision. It is estimated that ten fewer Probation and Parole Officers would be needed if this legislation is passed.”
The committee vote is just the latest cannabis policy development in Missouri. In March, the full House approved a bill that would expunge certain prior marijuana conviction records for patients covered under the state’s new medical cannabis law.
The decriminalization legislation now heads to the House Rules: Legislative Oversight committee, which has a hearing scheduled for Monday.
Photo courtesy of Rick Proctor.