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Missouri Senate bill could reduce penalties for first-time - KOAM TV 7

Missouri Senate bill could reduce penalties for first-time marijuana offenders

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Missouri lawmakers are overhauling the state's criminal code and the 1,100-page Senate version would change the penalties for first time offenders for possession of marijuana.

Currently, possession of pot for first time offenders can result in a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but under the proposed criminal code change, offenders possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana would simply face up to a $500 fine.

For some Four States residents, it makes sense.

"I think it should be no fine at all," Joplin resident Mike Brown said.

"I think it should be legalized because a lot of people who drink get too crazy on liquor and I smoke my share of weed, but I keep my cool," Joplin resident James Wilson said.

"I would say if they are caught some time later with it, then maybe jail time then, but on the first conviction, no," said Baxter Springs resident Vern Adams.

The bill will also reduce the maximum prison sentence for other drug possession charges, which some believe will save the state money.

"What I've read about Washington, they've unloaded a lot of prisoners in their jails and saved millions if not billions of dollars, put them back to work, and don't have to spend all that money keeping them in jail," Brown said.

The Alliance of Southwest Missouri for Drug Free Communities in Newton County does not believe the changes would have a drastic impact on state prison population and is concerned usage and substance abuse rates might increase.

"We don't have a large percentage of inmates in jail strictly for marijuana offenses," said Crystal Ipock-Ludiker, Program Director for Drug Free Communities in Newton County, Alliance of Southwest Missouri. "We increase our risk factors by lowering consequences. A lot of times we will see an increase in usage rates among youth and adults."

The Alliance encourages people to do their own research before backing the change in penalties.

Current law provides a 7-year maximum prison sentence for other felony drug possession offenses. The Senate bill would reduce that sentence to 4 years.

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