KC public safety committee recommends petition to reduce marijuana possession fines

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Although members were hesitant, Kansas City Council's public safety committee recommended on Wednesday that a petition to reduce marijuana possession fines will go on the April ballot.

“We believe that people should not be incarcerated for small marijuana offenses, more than 1,000 people were arrested in Kansas City last year and that is people whose lives will be affected by these arrests for the rest of their lives,” said Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization For The Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML KC).

The group led a petition initiative asking Kansas City voters to reduce the maximum pot possession fine in municipal court from $500 to $25 for possession of 35 grams or less, as well as eliminating jail time.

“It's not perfect, but with situations like this, it's language that we put together, and it will accomplish our main goal, which will be keeping people out of prison for minor marijuana offenses,” added Kacz.

During the meeting, members made it clear they have concerns about the proposal.

“We'll put it on the ballot, but I would hope that the group that`s responsible for this would be responsible, and provide the education to the voters and make sure they fully understand what you're asking for,” said Councilwoman Alissia Canady, who serves District 5.

Decriminalization advocates got enough petition signatures under the city charter, so it must go on the ballot.

“I'm concerned with for a couple different reasons that the way this is being presented is very misleading, almost at the edge of deception, in the sense that it`s not just decriminalizing, it`s still criminal, you're still going to have troubling effects, and the problem we have with drug convictions in this country is the disparity impact it has on minorities,” Canady said.

Canady warned this proposal might make things worse for people who are caught with weed.

“If they get caught with 35 grams of weed, they`re not going to get a citation in municipal court, that case is going to Jackson County for a distribution case, and that's a big felony, and they`re facing five to fifteen years in prison for that offense,” Canady said.

The full council votes on the proposed ballot language Thursday, which is the deadline to approve measures for the April election.