As legal medical marijuana is on its way to Missouri, the city of Rolla is exploring decriminalizing possession of small amounts by recreational users.
The City Council recently voted 10-2 to direct city staff to research the concept and come back with proposals to make possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana punishable by a fine or eliminate prosecution altogether.
Rolla City Councilman Daniel Jones, who uses marijuana to treat PTSD and other disorders, and was jailed for a year for possession, supports decriminalization.
Jones said dealers need to be prosecuted, but not users who only have a small amount.
“If myself or you are walking around with a small bag of pot that we’re utilizing instead of alcohol or other recreational drugs, I just don’t think prosecution at the level we’re doing, overpenalizing, is the answer,” Jones said.
Jones said the state’s marijuana laws are part of a broken system.
“If we’re able to correct a broken law, I think we should definitely strive to do that,” Jones said. “It’s sensible to take this step.”
The measure faces opposition from drug counselors who say decriminalization will encourage people to start a drug habit that can quickly turn into addiction.
Jamie Myers of Prevention Consultants of Missouri, a drug treatment service in Rolla, told the city council that reducing or eliminating penalties on pot possession will send a message to children that marijuana use is OK.
“Kids are listening. And they are watching,” Myers said. “How we talk about substances, how we act when discussing substances, and the policy developed will affect kids perceptions about these substances.”
If Rolla passes such a measure, it will join St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia in reducing or eliminating penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Jonathan Ahl
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org