(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri lawmaker arrested for possessing marijuana resigned Monday from a Democratic campaign position because of his “embarrassing choices,” but he said he will remain in elected office.
Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, of Kansas City, said he was driving home Sunday from a weekend meeting of the House Democratic caucus in St. Louis when he was pulled over and arrested on Interstate 70 near Columbia.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said LaFaver was stopped for failing to respond to a charge in Moniteau County of driving with an expired license tag and without insurance. During the traffic stop, the patrol said, LaFaver was found to be in possession of a marijuana pipe and up to 35 grams of marijuana.
Online records for the Boone County sheriff’s department shows LaFaver was released after meeting a $125 bail. No charges had been filed as of late Monday morning.
LaFaver, 33, issued a statement apologizing for his actions and saying he was resigning as chairman of the House Democratic Victory Committee, which raises money for Democratic House candidates.
“I didn’t want my embarrassing choices to distract from the work of electing more Democrats to the House,” LaFaver said in a telephone interview Monday with The Associated Press.
GOP spokesman Matt Wills said Missouri Republicans urged LaFaver to “take genuine responsibility by resigning from the Missouri House of Representatives.”
LaFaver said that would not happen.
“I’m not looking at resigning from my House seat, because I think I can still be an effective state representative,” he said.
LaFaver said he had not been smoking marijuana at the Democratic caucus meeting, where he made a presentation about the party’s fundraising efforts. He declined to say why the marijuana was in his vehicle, noting the pending charges. Although many lawmakers have special state license plates designating their office, LaFaver said he does not have such plates.
He described the incident as a “serious mistake,” saying he would take some time with his family to focus on the things that are important to him.
House Minority Leader Jake Hummel said in a statement that LaFaver’s “actions were unfortunate and he will face consequences as a result.” Hummel, of St. Louis, said one such consequence is the resignation as chairman of the House Democratic Victory Committee.
LaFaver co-sponsored unsuccessful marijuana legislation this year that, if it had passed, could have applied to his situation.
The bill would have reduced Missouri’s penalties for possessing less than 35 grams of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia to a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a $250 fine. The bill also would have created a “strong presumption” that the sentence should be suspended in favor of community service or drug counseling. Those charges currently are misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.
The legislation also would have directed law enforcement officers not to arrest people possessing small amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernalia but to instead simply issue a summons for them to appear in court. The bill never made it out of a House committee in the Republican-led Legislature.
LaFaver is a freshman lawmaker who first won election last November and previously worked as a lobbyist for various children’s advocacy groups and the American Civil Liberties Union. He also worked as a child advocate for Kansas City’s Partnership for Children.