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Three St. Louis Aldermen Will Sponsor a Marijuana Legalization Panel Discussion Monday 3/24 6-8pm

Entrance marker to Harris-Stowe State University. Compton and what was once Laclede Ave
Entrance marker to Harris-Stowe State University. Compton and what was once Laclede Ave

Last year the St. Louis Board of Aldermen reduced penalties for possession of small quantities of marijuana, see Reduction in marijuana penalties approved by St. Louis Board of Aldermen.  This year Colorado began allowing the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use, Washington state will do the same later this year.  New polls show a narrow majority of Americans support the legalization.  The debate comes to St. Louis Monday evening:

ST. LOUIS (AP) – The debate over legalization of marijuana will be the subject of an open forum in St. Louis later this month. Three members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen are hosting the forum the evening of March 24 at Harris-Stowe State University. The panel discussion will address the disproportionate number of marijuana arrests for African-Americans, the safety of the drug, and whether a marijuana tax would benefit government revenues. (KSDK)

With the legalization of marijuana being such a hot topic these days, Sixth Ward Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia will address various issues surrounding the debate during an open forum at Harris-Stowe State University, Monday, March 24, 2014, 6-8 p.m. in the Emerson Performance Center’s Bank of America Theatre. Held in collaboration with Alderman Chris Carter, 27th Ward, and Alderman Shane Cohn of the 25th Ward, the panel discussion will address how marijuana arrests disproportionally affect people of color; whether marijuana is safer than alcohol; how legalization would affect black market drug sales and whether a marijuana tax would benefit declining government revenues. (St. Louis American)

The history of the drug and how it became illegal is interesting, and a reflection of our racial fears:

The political upheaval in Mexico that culminated in the Revolution of 1910 led to a wave of Mexican immigration to states throughout the American Southwest. The prejudices and fears that greeted these peasant immigrants also extended to their traditional means of intoxication: smoking marijuana. Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crimes, aroused a “lust for blood,” and gave its users “superhuman strength.” Rumors spread that Mexicans were distributing this “killer weed” to unsuspecting American schoolchildren. Sailors and West Indian immigrants brought the practice of smoking marijuana to port cities along the Gulf of Mexico. In New Orleans newspaper articles associated the drug with African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and underworld whites. “The Marijuana Menace,” as sketched by anti-drug campaigners, was personified by inferior races and social deviants. In 1914 El Paso, Texas, enacted perhaps the first U.S. ordinance banning the sale or possession of marijuana; by 1931 twenty-nine states had outlawed marijuana, usually with little fanfare or debate. Amid the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment fueled by the Great Depression, public officials from the Southwest and from Louisiana petitioned the Treasury Department to outlaw marijuana. Their efforts were aided by a lurid propaganda campaign. “Murder Weed Found Up and Down Coast,” one headline warned; “Deadly Marijuana Dope Plant Ready For Harvest That Means Enslavement of California Children.” Harry J. Anslinger, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, at first doubted the seriousness of the problem and the need for federal legislation, but soon he pursued the goal of a nationwide marijuana prohibition with enormous gusto. In public appearances and radio broadcasts Anslinger asserted that the use of this “evil weed” led to killings, sex crimes, and insanity. He wrote sensational magazine articles with titles like “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth.” (NPR – Reefer Madness)

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively banned marijuana & industrial hemp in the US, even though the drug had been used by doctors until then. In 1969 the US Supreme Court said the act was unconstitutional, see Leary v. United States. In 1970 congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which listed marijuana among the most dangerous drugs. From the US DEA:

Schedule I Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote  Schedule II Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, less abuse potential than Schedule I drugs, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are: cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin Schedule III Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV. Some examples of Schedule III drugs are: Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone Schedule IV Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Some examples of Schedule IV drugs are: Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien Schedule V Schedule V drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes. Some examples of Schedule V drugs are: cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin

Yes, since 1970 marijuana has been listed as more dangerous than cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. For many marijuana does indeed have medical uses:

Pain is the main reason people ask for a prescription, says Barth Wilsey, MD, a pain medicine specialist at the University of California Davis Medical Center. It could be from headaches, a disease like cancer, or a long-term condition, like glaucoma or nerve pain. (webMD)

Some parents say medical marijuana stops severe seizures in their children, the reason a Missouri parent is fighting for medical marijuana here.

Again, the event is Monday 6-8pm at the Emerson Performance Center at Harris Stowe, see map.

— Steve Patterson



March 17, 1978: Board of Aldermen Approve Downtown Shopping Mall Bills

In the 1970s civic leaders were busy destroying large swaths of downtown in order to retain/attract workers/employers & residents.  In 1977 the Cervantes Convention Center opened with largely blank exterior walls and occupying 4 formerly separate city blocks.

Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D'Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.
Cervantes Convention Center. 801 Convention Center Plaza. St. Louis Mo. August, 1977. Photograph (35mm Kodachrome) by Ralph D’Oench, 1977. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. NS 30747. Scan © 2006, Missouri Historical Society.

The following Spring, 36 years ago today, they continued in the same direction advocated by our first planner Harland Bartholomew decades earlier:

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved three bills that would set the stage to develop a proposed downtown shopping mall, with the only further step being the acquisition of federal funding. The headquarters of Stx, Baer, & Fuller, which would become Dillard’s just months before the mall’s completion, and Famous-Barr existed with one block separating them between Washington and Locust at 6th Street. The goal was to create an enclosed, urban shopping mall with these two companies as anchors, and the estimated budget was nearly $150 million. St. Louis Centre opened in 1985 as the largest shopping mall in America. It had over 150 stores and 20 restaurants, and was initially a great success. Challenges appeared in the 1990s however, as the Westroads Shopping Center was redeveloped into the St. Louis Galleria and stores began closing. St. Louis Centre closed in 2006, and since then has been redeveloped into a 750-car parking garage and retail center. (STL250 on Facebook)

Seven years later the internally-focused mall opened. The pedestrian realm in St. Louis was officially dead.

Looking west from 6th Street on May 22, 2010
Looking west from 6th Street on May 22, 2010 as the pedestrian bridge over Washington Ave is being razed.

In the 1970s big indoor shopping malls were all the rage. We know now in an urban setting, like a central business district, turning blank exterior walls to the sidewalk and putting all retail activity indoors out of view to people passing by is a formula for disaster. In hindsight, it’s obvious. At the time few realized the magnitude of the mistake.

When the Cervantes Convention Center was expanded a block to the south in the early 1990s it was given a new more inviting facade, controversial at the time. St. Louis Centre was converted into a large parking garage in this decade, with retail spaces facing outward to the sidewalk. Slowly we’re relearning that a CBD can’t appeal to the suburban motorist. The urban core of any region should distinguish itself from the suburbs.

Suburbia can’t match old urban neighborhoods, usually failing when it tries. Conversely, older urban areas fail when trying to be like new suburbs. Most people chose suburbia, I get that. In the St. Louis region we have plenty of suburbia for those who prefer it, we need to double-down on making the City of St. Louis the pedestrian-froendly urban environment preferred by the rest of us. These can co-exist in the same region. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten to the point of having so little good urban area that those seeking an urban life have had no other choice but to leave the region.

A few urban block here and there won’t support an urban life, we need a city 100% committed to the urban dweller.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Keep President of the Board of Aldermen Position Elected Citywide; Salary Elevated After 1981 Charter Change

In the poll last week readers indicated they didn’t want to change the city charter with respect to the office of President of the Board of Aldermen:

Q: Should the President of the Board of Aldermen be selected from within the BoA or continue as a citywide office?

  1. Keep office elected citywide 39 [52%]
  2. St. Louis needs to stop tweaking its 100 year old charter and start fresh 16 [21.33%]
  3. Aldermen should elect presiding officer from within their ranks 14 [18.67%]
  4. Unsure/no opinion 4 [5.33%]
  5. Other: 2 [2.67%]
    1. abolish the position
    2. Term limits are more important.

I hoped a majority would’ve selected the #2 answer, to start over with a new charter. Our charter has been changed many times over the last 100 years. Until 1981, the President of the Board of Aldermen salary wasn’t much more than each of the 28 Aldermen.

Mayor Conway succeeded in getting voters to lift the $25,000 salary limit that had been contained in the city charter. Some saw the salary cap as a hindrance in recruiting and retaining highly qualified civil servants. (Wikipedia

After the charter was changed to lift the cap, the president’s salary was given a big boost from the roughly 10-12% premium over the alderman’s compensation. Tom Zych was president for two terms (1979-1987), followed by Tom Villa, Francis Slay, Jim Shrewsbury, and now Lewis Reed. Zych’s 2nd term was the first with the higher salary.

I think our structure deserves at least being examined. Perhaps we’ve got the best possible charter, but we won’t know until we compare to alternatives.

— Steve Patterson


Three Years (Mostly) Smoke-Free in St. Louis City & County

Cat's Meow
Cat’s Meow in Soulard is an exempt bar for 2 more years

Three years ago today smoking bans took affect effect in St. Louis and St. Louis County, making all restaurants and most bars smoke-free. In both city & county, small bars were exempted. In the city, the exemption expires after five years.

Are the exempt businesses preparing for two years from today when they’ll be smoke-free as well? Hopefully they’ve used the last three years to build a patio, or plans are in the works for the next two years.

The opponents of the ban were correct, I’ve been annoyed by the number of smokers outside of some businesses. But I try to pass quickly or take a different route — much better than others having to inhale second-hand smoke indoors.

A year into the bans St. Louis magazine did a story on the impact, see Of Smoking Butts and Chapped Booties: Smoking Ban Delights Some Restaurateurs, Enrages Others. In short, some said business was better, others not so much.

I know I’m happy, I go out more often. I don’t spend time trying to decide where to find a smoke-free restaurant to meet friends for dinner. We still spend time debating location & menu though.  I’ve not seen any studies on the St. Louis market to see what impact, if any, the bans have had.

I’d like to see casinos become smoke-free, I had to go through the Lumiere Link a couple of months ago and it was awful passing by the casino area. I’m also tired of hotels having smoking and non-smoking rooms. The Chicago hotel I want to stay at next month only has a disabled room with roll-in shower in smoking. I’d rather not shower than try to sleep in a smoking room.

— Steve Patterson


Readers: Ban Pet Stores From Selling Puppy Mill Dogs

November 13, 2013 Board of Aldermen, Politics/Policy, Retail Comments Off on Readers: Ban Pet Stores From Selling Puppy Mill Dogs
Kennels at Stray Rescue
Kennels at Stray Rescue

Readers that voted in the unscientific poll last week made it clear they’d support a ban on puppy mill dogs:

Q: Would you support a municipal/county ban on pet stores selling dogs from puppy mills?

  1. Yes 61 [78.21%]
  2. No 9 [11.54%]
  3. Unsure/no opinion 6 [7.69%]
  4. Possibly 2 [2.56%]

Such bans aren’t new:

Thirty-one cities have passed ordinances that ban pet stores from selling animals that come from commercial breeders. They are only allowed to offer rescued animals from shelters. (KMOV)

Maybe an alderman will introduce bill to ban pets stores in St. Louis from selling puppy mill dogs.

— Steve Patterson