New KC mayor still plans to pardon potentially thousands of marijuana convictions

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Quinton Lucas was sworn in Thursday as Kansas City's newest mayor. One of his promises during the campaign was to pardon some people convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in the city.

Marijuana has been illegal in the United States for nearly a century, but in the early 2000s in Kansas City, people were rarely convicted of possessing the drug.

That changed dramatically in 2008 when nearly 1,000 people were popped for pot and charged in Kansas City's municipal court. In all, more than 5,000 people ultimately ended up being convicted as charged facing possible jail time since then.

 "A lot of people make mistakes when they are younger. I think it would be very unfortunate if it were to affect their professional outcome later on in life," Liz Wells, a pedestrian, said.

Lucas agrees. He has as pledged to pardon people previously convicted of stand alone marijuana possession municipal ordinance violations.

"To say that somebody was 18, 10 years ago, had a small joint, ended up with a ticket, it was an ordinance violation, and they have to live with that stigma, I think it's ridiculous, and I look forward to making that change soon," Lucas said.

Lucas could also pardon people still working their way through the court system.

In 2017, Kansas City voters approved a ballot initiative reducing the maximum penalty for having less than 35 grams of marijuana to $25  with no possible jail time, but it's still a drug conviction.

As Jackson County Prosecutor's Office announced they'd no longer prosecute minor marijuana cases, Municipal Court charges have decreased, but are still happening. In fact including warrants there's nearly 3,000 pending municipal court marijuana cases.

"The law is the law. You shouldn't break it. But then again, our prisons are overcrowded, and my tax dollars should go to someone that's committing a huge felony rather than something like a misdemeanor," Kaili McCamman, a pedestrian, said.

Lucas says the fact Missouri is about to cash in on medical marijuana is just another reason people only busted for pot shouldn't have to worry if that conviction could show up on certain applications for jobs, loans, or schools.

"If you are someone who has been poor and who had a small amount of personal use marijuana years ago, you are still walking around with that stigma, that's not right and that's not fair," Lucas said.

The idea of "pot pardons" isn't entirely new. In fact, Canada just released details Thursday on how everyone in that nation could have their records expunged.

Details of exactly how the program will work in Kansas City have yet to be released. The onus is almost certainly going to fall on offenders to apply for the pardon, most likely having to obtain a copy of their criminal record to give to the Mayor's office to get the conviction expunged.

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