St. Louis decriminalization laws decreasing fines and convictions


St. Louis decriminalized up to 35 grams of pot last summer, and the effects so far have kept cannabis users from paying huge fines and (most importantly) out of jail, according to arrests statistics pulled by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Since the law was passed, 127 people have been charged with possession under 35 grams. Fifty-seven cases haven’t reached the courts yet, but those that have are seeing suspended sentences that will be tossed out upon completion of community service or (in some cases) drug education classes. Only one person has pleaded guilty and been fined.

The law change, pushed by Alderman Shane Cohn, says people caught with 35 grams or less can be fined between $100 and $500. Before the law was passed, people were charged under state laws that still call for up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines for misdemeanor possession. A second offense is considered a felony at the state level.
But decriminalization doesn’t mean you can ignore the summons. Nearly forty people have skipped out on their court hearings and now face charges for that, all stemming from what is now a municipal infraction.
In total in 2013, there were still 626 marijuana charges in St. Louis. However, those numbers also take into account people caught with more than 35 grams as well as third-time pot offenders who aren’t covered under the city decriminalization laws. There was a significant drop-off of charges between the first half and the second half of the year, with 399 between January and June and 227 from July to December.
While the law did lessen possession penalties for 35 grams or less in the city, the state laws still apply otherwise. More than 35 grams will get you a felony charge and up to a year in prison. Sale of even five grams is considered a felony with up to seven years in prison. Sell 30 grams or more to someone, and you’re looking at doing between a decade and the rest of your life in prison.