St. Louis got some good news last week.
In May, I wrote a piece of commentary published by The American that criticized three of the highest-profile public officials in our region and encouraged them to be bolder and more innovative in addressing the systemic inequities in St. Louis. One was Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, whose inaction on serious bail reform and prosecution of nonviolent drug crimes have been deeply disappointing for the poor communities of color that drive the work of ArchCity Defenders.
I believe it is crucial to be clear and honest about what we should expect from public officials, particularly in terms of their attentiveness to marginalized communities. I also believe it is important to encourage our public servants when they get it right.
Last week, Gardner did the right thing, and it deserves acknowledgement. On June 12, Gardner communicated to her staff a new policy that the circuit attorney’s office will not pursue cases for possession of marijuana under 100 grams. This is an eminently sensible policy, particularly in a region where black residents make up 85 percent of arrests solely for marijuana possession, despite ample evidence that marijuana use is roughly equivalent across race.
We should support this step toward decarceration and recognize that this is precisely the kind of policymaking by Gardner