KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Council has voted 9-2 in favor of Mayor Quinton Lucas’ ordinance to cut marijuana charges from city code.
The vote means if you are found carrying or smoking a small amount of marijuana, you won’t be get a ticket or charge from the city.
Lucas introduced the ordinance last month with support from several council members already.
It was co-sponsored by council members Brandon Ellington, Melissa Robinson, Lee Barnes and Ryana Parks-Shaw.
The council’s decision does not make marijuana legal in Kansas City. State and federal law still apply, and people can still be charged under those systems.
City officials will just no longer press charges for marijuana possession at the municipal level.
In 2018, Jackson County took a similar step, when Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced her office would no loner prosecute marijauna possession cases, with the exception of illegal sales and distribution and impaired driving.
Lucas said marijuana violations limit people’s opportunities long-term. This removes those barriers.
“I want to say for that person who might’ve experimented with marijuana in their teens or in their 20’s that’s trying to get a good job at 32, or 35, 25,” Lucas said. “I think this removes barriers to getting those types of jobs, and I think that will be a good thing for us.”
The mayor also believes it’s something Kansas City can do to be more equitable and free up police to focus on other types of crimes and build community relationships.
“This is allowing us to, particularly in communities that are most heavily impacted by violent crime, have relationships that are more about building more community relationships and also are about solving violent crimes. Not have folks that are getting over-policed on small issues like minor marijuana possession,” Lucas said.
On the opposing side, one council member said, of the more than 800 marijuana cases last year, about 621 included something other than marijuana, like a stolen vehicle or intent to sell.
A couple of council members believed the ordinance is a problem because Kansas City is in four counties. They said it’s possible these cases would now be treated differently depending on which county you’re in.
In 2017, nearly 75% of Kansas City voters approved a ballot initiative to reduce penalties for marijuana possession. The fine was reduced to $25 for possession of 35 grams or less, and it eliminated jail time.
This ordinance will eliminate even these punishments.
This isn’t the first time Lucas has supported looser marijuana restrictions. In February, Lucas rolled out a pardoning process for those with municipal marijuana charges.
He said the convictions were a barrier for many residents and the decision was long overdue.