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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Kansans get to vote on decriminalizing marijuana—even if it's just symbolic

After all these years of mindless marijuana prohibition, Wichita will finally get a chance to vote on decriminalizing the use of the drug "marijuana." Last Tuesday the city council, with a vote of 6 to 1, to let the citizens of Wichita decide if they want to keep the ridiculous un-enforceable marijuana laws or vote for changes. A group called Kansas for Change coalition along with JENI (Jobs & Education-Not Incarceration), and the Peace and Social Justice Center, have been working to collected signatures to get those changes put on the ballot.
According to
 The Wichita Eagle:
"The Wichita City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to put the measure on the ballot after backers presented a petition with thousands of signatures supporting it. Council member Pete Meitzner voted no.
The proposal seeks to amend the city code and make a first-offense marijuana possession a criminal infraction with a $50 fine. The conviction would be expunged after 12 months if an offender kept a clean record."

The Council has voted because the group now has enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Kansas for Change Co-Founder Esau Freeman told 
KSN News his group has over 4,000 signatures turned in. That is more than enough to get the measure put on the ballot.
Even if those changes are voted in, this campaign may be more symbolic. The Kansas legislature is threatening to challenge the new law as it may violate the state laws of Kansas. However, there has been an effort from Kansas legislators to vote on a statewide move to decriminalize marijuana. 
HB 2049 will decriminalize marijuana possession on the first two offenses. This will be the fist time in years that state legislators have voted to change the marijuana laws.
But there is still resistance to these changes. According to The Wichita Eagle:
"In response, senior assistant revisor Jason Long wrote that the Kansas Supreme Court has “consistently held that a city cannot adopt a criminal ordinance that is in conflict with uniform state law.” The proposed measure would change the first offense from a misdemeanor to an infraction, like a traffic violation.
“Based on prior case law if the proposed amendment set out in the Petition were to become part of the Wichita municipal code, then the Wichita municipal court would no longer have jurisdiction over marijuana possession offenses because the local ordinance would be in conflict with state criminal law."

There are many people who serious oppose this ordinance passing. However, as with the vote in Colorado, it is way past time to declare an end marijuana prohibition. The drug's use is now supported by many adults in this state today and yet Kansas has some of the harshest laws in the country. 
About 54% of adult Americans believe marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol, and 76% do not believe people should be jailed for possession. One of the main reasons for keeping marijuana illegal is all the money made off of it by the courts and drug treatment centers. Prosecutors can now force people caught with the drug to go into expensive treatment programs. It is time to let this issue go and move on. People smoke pot just as they drink alcohol. It is time to get serious bout that drug and legalize it. 
We are adults and it is a question of letting adults act as adults make simple decisions as to how we want to live. For a state with politicians who go on and one about individual rights, it is about time they recognize the rights of those who want to smoke marijuana.

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