Alderman Shane Cohn Puts St. Louis Marijuana Decriminalization Rumor To Rest

May 26, 2010 at 11:00 am
click to enlarge Shane Cohn: "Certainly the war on drugs has not been the most successful thing in world."
Shane Cohn: "Certainly the war on drugs has not been the most successful thing in world."
Turns out 56 percent of Daily RFT readers were right: Shane Cohn is the St. Louis alderman considering marijuana decriminalization in St. Louis.

Well, sort of.

Last week Mayor Slay's website featured several "mini-polls" seeking public opinion on marijuana laws and revealed that an unnamed member of the Board of Aldermen had "begun discussing a proposal" to "make the possession of a small amount of marijuana a summary offense (a relatively minor criminal charge) or even decriminalize it."

Hoping to out the mysterious cannabis crusader, we posted a poll of our own. Cohn, who represents the 25th Ward in south city, won the lion's share of the vote, largely because he tweeted about the issue the week before.

Yesterday, Cohn called to explain that yes, he's interested in reforming drug laws in St. Louis and no, it's not going to happen anytime soon, if at all.

"I'll be honest," Cohn said. "I tweeted about that because I was participating in a conference out in Washington D.C. this past weekend and one of the speakers out there was the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.
"I'm very sympathetic to the cause," he explained. "I've personally never used marijuana or even smoked a cigarette. My drug of choice is alcohol. I try to look at things from big picture perspective and certainly the war on drugs has not been the most successful thing in world and actually it's probably hurt us more than anything else.

"I was trying to get some public input in process and see where folks are on this issue," he continued. "I've never spoken about it outside of my circle of friends. Being in a public position is new for me. I've only been in office 13 months. An issue like this can be controversial and I just wanted to start some discussion about it. I personally don't have legislation planned. I have no intention or plans of introducing legislation [on this issue] at all."

So what was the story with with the polls on

"I did have a conversation in the mayor's office," Cohn said. "The next thing I know it ended up on the Mayor's blog. I think they were a little quick to fire the gun on it."

Cohn added that he was pleased with the discussion sparked by the polls and noted that the results indicate that the public is overwhelmingly in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. As of this morning, 92 percent of respondents said they favor "complete legalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults," and 94 percent said they support "marijuana for medical use if prescribed by a doctor."

"It's not a conversation that I want to stop," Cohn said. "I'm open to having more public dialogue on it."