Missouri Representative Rory Ellinger (D) plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Ellinger introduced a similar bill last May, which got a formal hearing in the House but did not go any further.
Ellinger said, “I feel fairly good that [decriminalization] will get farther than it did last year. This is something that I think some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle might want to support because it’s going to reduce the size of our state government considerably.”
Ellinger hopes that the bill will gain support from Democrats hoping to reduce minority-based arrests related to non-violent marijuana crimes and Republicans looking to reduce government size in law enforcement regulation and corrections.
Representative Paul Curtman (R) heads a committee to downsize the state government. Curtman said if the bill was assigned to his committee — something he called a “distinct possibility” — that he assured Ellinger he would give it a hearing.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to say ‘let’s decriminalize marijuana in the state,’” Curtman said. “But at the same time I think there’s a lot of support behind the idea that our laws on the books for marijuana are just too heavy handed. So let’s balance out the criminal aspect of some of this, because the cost of keeping a person in jail to the taxpayer is immense.”
Ellinger is motivated to decriminalize low level marijuana possession because of the impact that a single marijuana offense can have on the life of a young person who otherwise is a law abiding individual.