Deputy DA criticizes marijuana petition

Published On: Apr 01 2014 05:23:50 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 01 2014 05:37:49 PM CDT
Smoking marijuana

A new petition seeking to decriminalize marijuana possession in Kansas is getting criticism from the legal community.

"Marijuana is something that we should not be making available to our citizens because it is a very addictive drug," said Reno County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Stanton.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, the group "Kansas for Change" announced it's new petition that looks to lessen fines and eliminate jail time if you're caught with marijuana.

Supporters also say similar petitions are starting in areas like Lawrence, Salina and Wyandotte county. If the groups get enough signatures, the issue could end up on local ballots in the November election.

But Stanton say voters should know all the facts about the drug first.

"I think if somebody does their homework and looks at some of the issues that Colorado and Washington are having because of the passage of marijuana laws there, I think they will really look at it and come to a different conclusion here in Kansas," Stanton said.

"When the officer arrests you, he says if you don't like the law change the law and that's what we are here to do," said Kansas for Change Co-Founder Esau Freeman.

"We are approaching it from another angle because we have no influence with the Kansas legislature," says cannabis activist Janice Bradley.

Only lawmakers in Topeka can change Kansas law and they have not debated any marijuana bill in recent years.

Stanton doesn't think the law should change for many reasons. He says it's a dangerous drug and judges rarely give out a maximum sentence for marijuana.

"We don't have anybody, not one single person since I've have been here that I know of that has served a 12 month sentence for a possession of marijuana sentence in jail," Stanton said. "We know treatment is a better option, so we try to get treatment for people. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Stanton says in his experience as a prosecutor, it's clear marijuana can lead to other drugs and addiction.

The petition group says it hopes to gather more than 4000 signatures by July. That will give the City of Wichita enough time to verify the petition so it can be put on the November ballot.