Representative Rory Ellinger (D-University City) is poised to make good on his promise to introduce two bills relating to the way law enforcement deals with marijuana.
"Our justice system needs to be designed such that non-violent offenders are able to learn from their mistakes, rehabilitate themselves, and go on to contribute to society and provide for themselves and their families," Ellinger says in a statement.
The first will decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot while the second opens up the possibility of record expungement for low level marijuana crimes. The first bill would do for the entire state what Alderman Shane Cohn is proposing for the city.
The first bill rewrites current drug laws to say that anyone found in possession of 35 grams or fewer of marijuana will not be arrested, rather they'll be given a court date, a fine of no more than $250 and charged with a misdemeanor. It makes exceptions for anyone who has been convicted of a felony in the past ten years or has committed other, more serious drug offenses in the previous five years.
"No such person, if found guilty, shall be incarcerated or suffer the loss of a driver's license and there shall be a strong presumption that the proper disposition of any such case shall be to suspend the imposition of sentence and to require community services or controlled substance counseling or both," the bill reads.
The second opens up the possibility of record expungement five years after a nonviolent, nonsexual misdemeanor crime. The cost is $500 and would encompass these small possession marijuana crimes, should the first bill pass.
"It means keeping the records clean of countless numbers of young people who take a flow trip on the river, they have a little bit of mariujauna on them. They don't even bother to come in, they plead out and they can never get a job," Ellinger told Daily RFT when he spoke to us about the idea in November. "Literally thousands of people are affected this way on a yearly basis."
Ellinger plans to speak at length about his bills at a press conference on Thursday morning at 11 a.m. in Jefferson City. Read the original language below: