Kansas City marijuana supporters overwhelmingly supported reduced penalties for marijuana possession last week, and the new city law has already taken effect. Voters approved a citizens petition initiative that reduces the maximum fine in city court from $500 to $25 and eliminates possible jail time as a penalty for possessing 35 grams or less of pot, about 1 1/4 ounce.
But pot possession is still illegal, and a guilty plea would involve a drug conviction. This is not like what Colorado and some other states have done to legalize marijuana possession.
This vote took place after enough signatures were turned in for an initiative petition at the end of the year in 2016.
The vote was Tuesday, 4/4/17, and the law took effect on Wednesday (the very next day). It affects any Municipal Court case that was open or active at that time. It limits the maximum fine to $25 for a single count of simple pot possession, but court costs of $48.50 per count still apply.
As reported by The Kansas City Star:
City Councilwoman Alissia Canady, a former Jackson County assistant prosecutor, says people should realize this fine is only for cases that go to Municipal Court. The court usually averages about 20 such cases per month, according to Court Administrator Megan Pfannenstiel. Some marijuana possession cases still wind up in Jackson, Clay or Platte county circuit courts, depending on the circumstances. Higher penalties still apply in those state courts.
Julita Latimer is a cannabis law reform activist who sits on the board for the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KC NORML), the organization that advocated and petitioned for this law. Latimer explained, “Our whole point was to keep people out of jail for a non-violent infraction. One of the best things that has come out of this , is its getting people to talk about cannabis. More people are wanting to hear about the benefits of cannabis. It will help as we work to bring medical cannabis to Missouri.”
Executive Director of KC NORML, Jamie Kacz, added, “Nearly 1000 people are arrested in Kansas City each year for cannabis possession and NORML KC’s main goal in creating this initiative was to eliminate jail time in Kansas City for cannabis possession. With Question 5 passing by an overwhelming support of 74%, this proves that Kansas City marijuana advocates were more than ready to take a stand against these unjust laws. In the upcoming weeks, NORML KC will continue to work with city officials to ensure proper implementation of this new ordinance and encourage the City Council to revise their contract with Legal Aid.”
Being from Missouri myself, I am particularly excited to see how this one rolls out.