COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A Columbia lawyer says a local ordinance that treats marijuana possession as a municipal violation isn't being followed by Boone County sheriff's deputies patrolling within city limits.
The Columbia-based Missouri Civil Liberties Association says the sheriff and the county prosecutor are disregarding the intent of city voters who approved the change in 2004.
Columbia's ordinance treats possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana as a misdemeanor. Violators are usually released with a summons to appear in court rather than placed under arrest.
Columbia attorney Dan Viets says sheriff's officers are instead arresting pot users in the city under more stringent state laws, and Knight is not downgrading those cases to municipal status.
The sheriff and prosecutor did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Under a bill outlined Thursday, first-time offenders for marijuana possession would be allowed to do community service and avoid jail. If offenders complete the sentence, the convictions would be removed from their record.
Rep. Rory Ellinger, a criminal defense attorney and Democrat from St. Louis, said the legislation would help people with marijuana convictions in their youth get jobs later by not having to disclose the conviction.
Ellinger said the measure could save the state money by keeping first-time drug offenders out of jail.
The new sentencing structure would apply only to people carrying less than 35 grams of marijuana.