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KCPD chief says marijuana motivates murders; proposal to decriminalize possession tabled

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City's police chief says marijuana is contributing to the city's higher-than-average murder rate.

According to Chief Rick Smith, 10 people have been killed so far this year in cases where the shooting was motivated by marijuana.

"Most of these marijuana-related shootings start as robberies of marijuana or the money connected to it," Chief Smith wrote in a blog Wednesday.

The blog followed testimony Wednesday by a Kansas City police captain against a proposed ordinance that would eliminate penalties for possession of less than a 100 grams of marijuana.

"Marijuana is obviously a concern in regards to the violent crime we have 10 homicides," Capt. Scott Simons said.

"The people are speaking. They'd like to be heard, and this is very important for them to say the worst thing about marijuana is being caught with it," said Justin Palmer, one of about 15 people who spoke in favor of the ordinance at the Finance Governance and Public Safety meeting.

Kansas City changed its ordinance back in 2017 reducing penalties for less than 35 grams to a $25 fine.  People argued the current $25 fine is more than it seems.

"You end up with a criminal record that prevents you from having a scholarship, prevents you from entering the military. There are all kinds of repercussions from this $25 fine," said Timothy Gilio, founder of Missouri Marijuana Legalization Movement.

 "This is going to benefit the public greatly. It is going to prevent a lot of police interaction. It's going to cut down on probation and parole," said Christina Frommer, co-founder of Canna Convict Project.

Police also said the ordinance could put marijuana users in a Catch 22.

Jackson County's Prosecutor said in November she'd stop prosecuting low level drug possession offenses, but prosecutors in the other counties Kansas City spans into haven't made the same commitment.

The committee adjourned without taking up the ordinance, much to the dismay of many who came out in support. Many were shouting at the committee members things like "y'all are wrong" as they exited.

"Whenever you have this many people that don't typically get engaged in local politics that come out in local politics, I don't see it as a setback. I see it as a win." said Councilman Brandon Ellington, who proposed the ordinance.

The council plans to take up the debate again at the committee meeting planned for Oct. 23.

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