JEFFERSON CITY, MO — A committee in the Missouri House heard testimony on a bill to decriminalize the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana Friday, but the hearing came too late in the legislative season for the bill to advance any further this year.
Testimony on House Bill 512 was heard by the Downsizing State Government Committee on the final day of the legislative session, eliminating the possibility that the full House of Representatives will vote on the bill this year. Nevertheless, marijuana reform activists are calling the hearing a “win.”
“Receiving a hearing lends greater credibility to the bill and will likely make more legislators receptive to the idea next year,” says John Payne of Missouri’s Show Me Cannabis. “Political progress often feels almost interminably slow, but make no mistake, we are moving steadily forward.”
The bill would have made the possession of up to 35 grams (about 1.2 ounces) of marijuana or pot paraphernalia punishable only by a $250 fine, but it would still be a criminal offense—a class A misdemeanor—instead of a civil infraction.
Currently, possession of under 35 grams of cannabis in Missouri is a misdemeanor that could result in up to 1 year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The bill would also encourage judges to use “suspended imposition of sentence,” under which the person is not convicted and, if he successfully completes a probationary period and pays the fine, there is no longer any public record of the matter.
With the end of the 2013 legislative session in Missouri, activists from Show-Me Cannabis, will continue to advocate for marijuana reform, focusing on 2014 and beyond.
“We plan to work over the summer and fall to build grassroots support for legislative reforms such as decriminalization, industrial hemp, and medical marijuana,” Payne said. ”Our ultimate goal is to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”
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