It is still illegal to consume recreational marijuana in Missouri, but prosecutors in several urban areas there have decided to stop going after people found in possession of small amounts of cannabis.
The prosecutors in Jackson County, St. Louis and St. Louis County have all announced that their efforts will be directed elsewhere rather than on small-time marijuana cases.
The change in these urban areas isn’t unique to Missouri. Brooklyn, Manhattan, Albany and Virginia are other examples of urban authorities where similar policies are being implemented.
Wesley Bell, the new prosecuting attorney of St. Louis County, is the latest urban authority law enforcement official to announce that low-level marijuana cases will no longer take any law enforcement resources.
However, individuals who are suspected to be distributing or selling marijuana will still be prosecuted as well as those who drive under the influence of the substance.
Marijuana law reform advocates welcomed this announcement and expect many other urban authorities to take similar action since there is growing pressure to end prohibition and adopt legalization and regulation of marijuana.
At one time, cannabis was seen as a stepping stone (“gate-way” drug) to harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. However, the medicinal use of marijuana has led to wider acceptance of the substance and nearly three dozen states have legalized its medical use. Missouri voters did the same during the recent midterms.
The decision taken by the prosecutors in the urban areas of Missouri have nevertheless attracted some criticism. For example, some lawmakers are saying that it isn’t up to the prosecutors to decide which laws they will implement and which ones they will not implement. They added that it is the work of the legislature to make laws while the judiciary interprets them and law enforcement simply implements those laws.
The action of the prosecutors is therefore a subversion of democracy, the critics concluded.
In response, Wesley Bell said that his biggest priority is to keep families safe, and small-time marijuana possession isn’t the biggest threat to families. Violent crime and other serious forms of crime pose a bigger threat to public safety, so scarce resources should be directed there.
Bell gave an example that a minor marijuana possession case can take approximately 60 hours of an assistant prosecutor’s time. Is that a good way to utilize the limited law enforcement personnel, he wondered.
Since prosecutors are in the business of tackling crime, who is to argue against them regarding how much attention low-level marijuana possession should be accorded? The cannabis industry, including VIVO Cannabis Inc. (TSX.V: VIVO) (OTCQX: VVCIF) and TransCanna Holdings Inc. (CSE: TCAN), welcomes every small step that is taken to end the pariah status that has been unfairly slapped on cannabis for decades.
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