St. Louis One Step Closer To Legalizing Sale, Distribution Of Condoms, Ending 1934 Law

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Forget saggy pants! Did you know that in the city of St. Louis, it's illegal to sell or distribute condoms. That is, according to a law passed in 1934 that is for some bizarre reason still on the books today.

"I don't think we should be criminalizing handing out condoms," Alderman Shane Cohn tells Daily RFT.

Cohn has formally introduced a bill to repeal a law that, for starters, technically means the city's own health officials are regularly breaking the law.

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This should be a pretty easy one to pass, Cohn says. "I don't think it's all that controversial."

The absurdly outdated ordinance that he is trying to throw out says:

It shall be unlawful to sell or offer for sale, or give away, within the City, any contraceptive or sex-inciting device or contrivance or any prophylactic rubber goods or prophylactic membranes or to own or be in charge of any vending machine dispensing any such article or to be in charge of any premises where such vending machine is maintained or where any such device is displayed or is dispensed by any means whatsoever.

In other condoms!

click to enlarge Shane Cohn.
Shane Cohn.

Unless, the ordinance says, the condoms are coming from "registered and licensed physicians, duly registered pharmacists, or to wholesale druggists, jobbers or manufacturers who sell to the retail drug trade."

The punishment for violating the ordinance? You could be "guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars or by imprisonment in the workhouse for not more than ninety days."

Cohn says his proposal is the shortest one he has ever written: "An Ordinance to repeal Ordinance 40429, approved December 14, 1934, relating to the regulation and restriction of prophylactics."

"I'm sure there are many things that need to be updated in the city of St. Louis," Cohn tells us, "but this one was brought to my attention."

He says that officials with the city health department, which does give out condoms, would prefer not to engage in an outlawed practice.

"They want to make sure they are in compliance with the law," Cohn says.

Any organizations or businesses that sell or give away condoms would technically be breaking the law in St. Louis right now.

Cohn brought forward the bill in a health committee at the board of aldermen yesterday, which, unsurprisingly, approved it unanimously. If all goes as planned, the repeal of the condom ban should eventually make it to the mayor's desk.

Cohn says he's not aware of any other alderman making a motion to repeal the obsolete law in the past.

Still, he says, "Our own city health department is in violation.... We need to get that updated."

Here's a copy of the very short board bill:

Board Bill

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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