KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Council on Thursday voted to include a question about reducing pot possession fines on the April ballot.
The decision received 12 affirmative votes and one dissenting vote from Mayor Sly James. Today’s approval was procedural. The group gathering signatures on the petition had enough to put it on the ballot.
On Wednesday, the council’s public safety committee recommended that the full council approve the measure to go before voters. In order to be approved for the April ballot, the decision had to be made Thursday, which is the deadline to approve measures for the April election.
The question on the ballot will read:
Shall the City of Kansas City limit the authorized punishment that can be imposed in the Municipal Court for the possession or control of 35 grams or less of marijuana to a maximum $25 fine, eliminate jail as a potential punishment for the possession or control of marijuana, and remove marijuana from the prohibition against drug paraphernalia?
“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.