Marijuana prosecutions scaled back in Columbia

Thursday, November 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:02 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Columbia city prosecutor’s office announced new policies on handling marijuana cases Wednesday.

Following voter-approval of Proposition 1 on Nov. 2, marijuana cases will not be prosecuted if defendants have written statements from their doctors allowing marijuana use for serious illnesses. Voters also passed Proposition 2, which effectively decriminalized misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

The prosecutor’s office said that for first offenses involving less than 35 grams of marijuana, prosecution will be deferred for a year.

If the defendant is caught committing a crime other than a minor traffic violation in that year, a judge could impose community service, drug counseling or a fine of up to $250.

“The prosecutor decides whether to defer prosecution or pursue the charge. The court decides if they get a suspended imposition of sentence or a fine (in guilty cases),” Rose Wibbenmeyer said.

Voters overwhelmingly passed both marijuana-related initiatives Nov. 2. A new city ordinance now protects seriously ill adults and their physicians who prescribe marijuana for medical use. Proposition 2 makes possession of less than 35 grams by adults the lowest law enforcement policy.

“The wording of the propositions is such that there is a strong presumption that the city is to defer prosecution on the case,” Wibbenmeyer said.

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