Pubdate: Mon, 05 May 2014
Source: Riverfront Times (St. Louis, MO)
Copyright: 2014 Riverfront Times, LLC
Author: Ray Downs


Missouri's marijuana laws made an inch of progress last month, but 
they are still among the strictest in the nation and yes, you can 
still get arrested for a joint. However, people with severe epilepsy 
will have better access to medicine and the severest marijuana 
penalty in the country has been somewhat taken off the books. In the 
omnibus crime bill that passed both the House and Senate and is now 
awaiting Governor Jay Nixon's signature, the most progressive change 
is a law that will allow patients with severe epilepsy to use 
cannabis oil for treatment. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate 
(32-0) and overwhelmingly in the House (130 to 12). One reason for 
the easy passage could be that patients can only use it after a 
doctor has recommended three other medications that have proven not 
to work effectively.

But another reason is the intense lobbying parents of children with 
severe epilepsy did in Jefferson City, with several mothers and 
fathers testifying in front of Senate panels and knocking on 
legislators' doors. Epilepsy patients have been a strong force in 
getting medical marijuana legislation passed in conservative states. 
Alabama and Tennessee have passed similar legislation to address the 
medical needs of people, especially children, suffering from epilepsy.

Another big change in Missouri's marijuana laws is a new provision 
that eliminates the possibility of jail time for a first-time offense 
of under ten grams of marijuana. However, this does not mean 
decriminalization -- and one can still be arrested, booked, and get a 
criminal record if caught with under ten grams of pot. Here's how the 
law reads:

The offense of possession of more than ten grams but less than 36 
grams of marijuana or any synthetic cannabinoid is a class A 
misdemeanor. The offense of possession of not more than 10 grams of 
marijuana or any synthetic cannabinoid is a class D misdemeanor. If 
the defendant has previously been found guilty of any offense to the 
laws related to controlled substances of this state, or of the United 
States, or any state, territory, or district, the offense is a class 
A misdemeanor.

"Nobody should call this decriminalization," attorney Dan Viets, who 
served on the Missouri Bar Committee that drafted the bill, tells 
Daily RFT. "Decriminalization means no arrest and no criminal record, 
but if cops choose to book you, they still can. It's a small step, 
but it's a step in the right direction." And one more important note: 
This law, if it does go into effect as is, won't be officially on the 
books until January 2017. So until then, the law is what it is now, 
which means one can serve up to a year in jail for under 35 grams of marijuana.

One more big change to the state's marijuana laws would end sentences 
with mandatory no parole or probation for third felony marijuana convictions.

"It essentially repeals the type of sentence given to Jeff 
Mizanskey," says Viets, referring to the only man in Missouri who is 
serving a life without parole sentence for marijuana charges.

Viets adds: "I specifically pushed for it to be put in. There's no 
reason for it. It's an anomaly and it shouldn't be on the books."
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