Wichita Kansas, on April 7th voters in Wichita had the opportunity to vote on a ballot question to decriminalize marijuana for first time offenders. This ordinance would reduce the punishment for possession of marijuana to a $50 fine. Voters in Wichita passed the ballot question with a majority vote of 55%. While clearly the citizens of Wichita are in favor of decriminalization they face opposition from the states Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The Attorney General has called the ordinance unlawful and has even threatened the city with a lawsuit if the ordinance goes into effect.
In the face of the opposition from the Attorney General, Wichita has asked Sedgwick County District Court to weigh in on the legality of the cities majority passed ordinance. The ordinance has essentially stalled as it awaits the county district court to make a decision on the legality of the ordinance before Wichita moves forward with the approved ordinance.
Sedgwick County released the election data which reveals the majority of the cities center has voted unanimously on acceptance and approval of the proposed city ordinance.
Kansas federal legislation on marijuana possession is one of the more harsh laws in the states. Individuals who are caught with possession of the schedule I drug in Kansas face very serious repercussions in the state. Kansas state law for first time offenders face misdemeanor charges that carry up to one year in jail and fines as high as $2,500. Individuals who get caught with possession for a second time face even more strict felony charges that carry an even heavier consequence. These felony charges consist anywhere from 10 months to 3.5 years in prison and fines up to $100,000.
January 12 2015 Kansas legislatures reintroduced Bill SB-9, “the cannabis compassion and care act.” Who’s sole current sponsor and introducer is Senator David Haley. Originally introduced in 2013 it has undergone some changes. The purpose of SB-9 is, “AN ACT enacting the cannabis compassion and care act; providing for the legal use of cannabis for certain debilitating medical conditions; providing for the registration and functions of compassion centers; authorizing the issuance of identification cards; establishing the compassion board; providing for administration of the act by the department of health and environment; amending K.S.A. 79-5210 and repealing the existing section.” The Bill remains in committee for the time being.
Citizens in Kansas aren’t sitting back and waiting for federal law to change. Earlier in the year on Jan 21, 2015 legislators had the opportunity to listen to the voices of seriously ill patients. Many supporters and opponents met with legislators in Topeka in an effort to be heard over the proposed Bill SB-9.
While many people wait for the federal government to reschedule marijuana nation wide, the states are left to their own devices on how to appease its constituents who are in favor of legalized and decriminalized marijuana. For now the fight in Kansas has really only just begun and has faced fierce opposition as its citizens fight to legalize and decriminalize marijuana.
Marijuana Policy Project
The Wichita Eagle