Last week, Mayor Quinton Lucas, Councilman Brandon Ellington, Councilwoman Melissa Robinson, Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw and Councilman Lee Barnes introduced an ordinance that would remove the possession or control of marijuana as a violation of the city’s Code of Ordinances. City council will make a final decision next month.
At the Finance, Governance and Public Safety Committee hearing June 24, KCPD Captain Scott Simons said he was concerned the ordinance was going to create public confusion, especially because there could still be an investigation and prosecution at the state and federal levels for marijuana offenses.
Lucas said he wanted to be clear that the ordinance would simply stop minor marijuana misdemeanor prosecution on the local level, but not for other jurisdictions.
“There are a lot of people trying to do a lot of things in society and having that small bit of baggage behind them – particularly if they’re a young black male, does actually create challenges for them,” Lucas said.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Americans are nearly four times as likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite roughly the same usage rates, a press release from the Mayor’s office cited.
“One of the ways we improve police-community relations is by eliminating laws that for too long have led to negative interactions, arrests, convictions and disproportionate rates of incarceration of Black men and Black women,” said Lucas in the release. “Reducing petty offenses – such as municipal marijuana offenses – reduce those negative interactions each day.”
The ordinance’s fact sheet said city resources should instead be focused on the prevention, investigation and prosecution of violent crime.
After voters showed their support for medicinal marijuana in 2018, Parks-Shaw said it is clear citizens want to see reform. Also, in 2017, Kansas City voters decided to decriminalize marijuana possession of 35 grams or less with a $25 fine instead.
“Co-sponsoring this legislation is a good first step,” she said.