- Neelys Landing man shot, killed by highway patrol trooper after traffic stop (05/01/16)43
- Cape student sues, accuses school officials of slamming her to ground multiple times (04/28/16)48
- Missouri House votes to allow concealed weapons without permits (04/28/16)8
- River Ridge Winery changes hands (05/02/16)
- Police report filed, but no charges in incident at Cape Central (04/29/16)40
- 2016 All-Missourian Boys Basketball (04/29/16)
- Statement: Man says copsí good work drove him to grow his own marijuana (05/01/16)1
- Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau among chain's 21 closings (04/26/16)9
- Senator introduces bill for I-57 that would connect Sikeston with Little Rock (04/28/16)4
- Hopper Road to close for months during construction of Veterans Drive (04/27/16)9
Democrats want lesser drug sentences
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Legislation outlined Thursday by Democrats would charge people with a crime for possessing marijuana, but some offenders could have their convictions removed from their record by fulfilling the terms of softened sentences.
A similar model has been in place for eight years in Columbia, home of the University of Missouri.
Under current law, people convicted of possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The legislation would limit fines for such violations to $250, prohibit incarceration and state that violators should not have their driving license suspended. It would bar police from arresting people caught with small amounts of marijuana, instead directing law officers to issue a summons to appear in court.
Rep. Rory Ellinger, a St. Louis criminal defense attorney, said the legislation would help people with marijuana convictions in their youth get jobs later by not having to disclose the conviction.
"You are free to start over again," he said.
Columbia attorney Dan Viets, who is chairman of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, said the Columbia program has been working well. Viets was joined at the news conference by former Columbia prosecutor Marcia Bower, who also praised the city's reduced marijuana penalties.
When asked whether removing prison sentences would eliminate a crime deterrent, Rep. Chris Kelly said deterrence already has failed.
"We spend so much money and we make no difference as to the use, and what we do is we ruin hundreds of thousands of people's lives," said Kelly, D-Columbia.
People would not qualify for the lighter sentences under the House bill if they have been found guilty of a felony in the past 10 years, or if they have received two or more convictions for marijuana possession in the past five years.
In a House chamber controlled by a two-thirds Republican majority, Democratic bills often don't fare well. At a Thursday news conference, House Speaker Tim Jones said marijuana legislation hasn't been an issue on which he's focused but that he would reserve judgment on the proposal.