KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mayor Quinton Lucas is serious about his campaign promise to pardon thousands of non-violent offenders in Kansas City, Missouri, who have been convicted of marijuana possession or paraphernalia.
“I think, frankly, this is just us carrying it out probably three years too late,” Lucas said.
The plan is to roll out the application process on the mayor’s website next week.
Then, an internal review will decide if a pardon should be granted.
“I understand that we have up to thousands of people to try to get through,” Lucas said. “We’ll make sure we do it, and I think frankly this is a new face for how we can handle, I think, drug prosecution, criminal justice in Kansas City.”
The Kansas City Council passed an ordinance Thursday that will allow them to wave fees for all pardons, making the process accessible to everyone.
“We want to make sure, unlike almost every other place in law, that this something that is as equal an opportunity for somebody who is poor today as it is for somebody who’s got lots of money,” Lucas said. “This will not just be online. There will be opportunities in the clerk’s office.”
KC attorney Howard Lotven said a pardon doesn’t erase the conviction. It only wipes out the consequences.
“Once a pardon is given, what occurs is that the conviction is still there, but no consequences can come from that conviction,” Lotven said. “No additional jail time. If they’re on probation, that probation is terminated, no additional fines.”
Lotven said the pardon could help when they are applying for a job or student loan.
That means no longer having to check “Yes” in the box that asks “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”
But Lotven said there are also legal questions that might start to pop up if the pardon happens.
For example, if someone has been pardoned, but gets arrested again for any type of drug charge, can that “pardoned” conviction be used for enhancement purposes?
“Generally, I think the courts would say, ‘No, that person’s been pardoned. Therefore you can’t use it for enhancement,'” Lotven said. “But I could see prosecutors still trying to use it for enhancement purposes.”
Lotven said a concern is that this pardon opens the door for people with other types of convictions.
“I can see a lot of online petitions to start pardoning people with DUI’s that are more than 20 years old,” he said.
Right now, Lucas is focused on removing marijuana from city ordinances.
“I don’t think the city needs to be in the business any longer of actually being part of that prosecution,” Lucas said. “There’s still state laws; there’s still federal laws.”