St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell will no longer prosecute cases for possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. The new policy first came to light in an internal memo to prosecutors and staff from Bell regarding changes in prosecutorial policy. It was leaked to reporters during Bell’s first week in office. Bell was sworn in as St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney on January 1 after being elected to the position in November.
Although Bell said in a Facebook post after the memo’s release that the changes had not yet been finalized, in an email to local media, his chief of staff Sam Alton wrote that the new policy has already been enacted.
“For possession cases alone — not a possession with a weapon or an intent to sell — possession alone, that policy is in effect and will stay in effect,” Alton said.
Larger quantities of cannabis will also be tolerated by the prosecutor’s office unless there is evidence of marijuana sales or distribution, according to the memo from Bell.
“Prosecution of more than 100 grams of marijuana will only be pursued if evidence suggests the sale/distribution of marijuana,” it reads.
Alton said that cases for possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana referred by municipalities in the county would not be prosecuted.
“If a municipality sends our office a case of possession of less than 100 grams, and that is the only charge that does not meet an exception and/or there is no extenuating circumstance, our office will not entertain and/or issue on that case,” Alton wrote. “We look forward to working with the municipalities on this and every other issue.”
Cops Not On Board
Although Bell’s office is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor and felony cases in the county, municipalities can still enforce ordinances against marijuana and issue sanctions that do not include time in jail. In an interview with local media, St. Louis County Police union president Joe Patterson said that police officers in the county will still be enforcing the federal prohibition of cannabis.
“I can’t pull a guy over with 96 grams of weed in his pocket and just let him keep it. That’s not something we can do,” Patterson said. “We’re still going to have to either write a county-level arrest summons, or there’s other recourses we have.”
Current Cases Dismissed
Under Bell’s new marijuana policy, prosecutors will be required to file motions to dismiss all pending cases for possession of less than 100 grams of cannabis. The prosecutor’s office will also be canceling all warrants for failure to appear in such cases. Prosecutors also “will not file or pursue Motions to Revoke Probation arising solely from the use or possession of marijuana.”
The new policy will also apply in cases where a defendant has already been sent back to jail for possessing marijuana in violation of probation.
“If those cases meet the standard, they will also be subject to review and possible dismissal,” Alton wrote.
The move by Bell follows the lead of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who last June also said cases for possession of less than 100 grams of cannabis would not be prosecuted.