|The seeds of change are sprouting in Kansas|
The way that the laws are currently written, you really do not want to get busted with weed in Wichita, Kansas…or any part of Kansas for that matter.
A first-time offense for simple pot possession in Kansas will earn you a misdemeanor charge on your record, up to a $2,500 fine, and even a year in jail. Get popped a second time and you could be looking at a felony.
But if the pro-cannabis advocacy group Kansas for Change has their way, that may be about to change for the better.
As the president of Kansas for Change, Esau Freeman is leading the charge for statewide cannabis reform, and his first battleground is the largest city in the state of Kansas, Wichita.
Freeman says that his group has collected more than enough signatures to put a newly proposed marijuana decriminalization bill on the Wichita city election ballot in April of next year.
A previous effort to place a similar bill before the voters earlier this year fell short by just 36 signatures after 3,600 signatures were deemed inadmissible, and were thrown out.
Polls reflect a 70% approval among voters for implementing a medical marijuana program in the state, but both efforts to create one in 2014 got stalled in the state senate by a handful of pot-hating politicians.
Freeman stops just short of calling this most recent effort a true decriminalization law, as many compromises have been made along the way just to advance the idea this far. “We’re calling it the Marijuana Reform Initiative,” Freeman said. “It’s not decriminalization and no way is it legalization.”
“If approved,” he continues, “it would send a message to elected officials that Kansans want more-relaxed marijuana laws.”
Wichita’s proposed new weed law would apply to adults 21 years of age or older. If approved as written, the new penalty for simple pot possession (32 grams or less) will be reduced to a $50 fine. Instead of a pair of handcuffs and a trip to the police station, the penalties would be issued by citation, or at worst, a summons to appear in court at a later date. Additionally, if the offender in question keeps a clean record for one year after their bust, all records of the incident will be expunged from their permanent record.
According to FBI and law enforcement data from 2012, some 4,700 Kansans were arrested or cited for marijuana-related offenses – mostly simple possession. The Marijuana Policy Project astutely points out that in that same one year time period, over 92% of robberies and home invasions, and over 66% of reported rapes, went unsolved in the state.
Freeman and his group Kansas for Change have planned a series of public awareness events, in hopes of ensuring that this latest effort comes to fruition in 2015.