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Lesser penalties for marijuana proposed

Jan. 10, 2013 at 5:56 PM

ST. LOUIS, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A St. Louis lawmaker plans to introduce a bill that would make the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana equal to that of a traffic ticket.

St. Louis Alderman Shane Cohn plans Friday to introduce his bill to reduce the penalty for being caught with small amounts of pot in the city, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Police currently charge marijuana offenders under harsher state laws because there are no local laws for marijuana. Cohn's bill would allow police officers to give violators a summons to appear in municipal court instead of arresting them at the scene.

"This is to alleviate the overstressed police and prosecutorial resources that are being overwhelmingly burdened," Cohn said.

Cohn said he worked with the circuit attorney's office, the Police Department and the city counselor's office in drafting the legislation.

"We support the concept," said Rachel Smith, an assistant circuit attorney. "Government agencies should always be open-minded at looking at good ways to use their resources and make sure the appropriate level charge is handled at the appropriate level."

Pro-legalization activists welcomed the legislation.

"I wasn't aware of this, but it is great," John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation said. "I was thinking it was time for St. Louis to put a law on the books."

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