Marijuana petition likely to end up on November ballot

Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:30:23 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 13 2014 10:38:55 PM CDT

A push to decriminalize marijuana in Wichita will likely end up on the November ballot. A local group says it has enough signatures on a petition to call for a vote.

A stack of signed petition sheets sits on top of Janice Bradley's desk at the Peace and Social Justice Center. Her group needs to collect 2,928 valid signatures before the Wichita City Council can put the issue up for a public vote.

"We are going to go ahead and try to get about 6,000 and we are at about 5,500 right now," Bradley said.

The petition calls for Wichita to decriminalize marijuana arrests. Right now, a first offense comes with a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

"We want to change that to a civil fine, where you pay $25. You wouldn't have the jail, the court, the lawyer fee, the criminal record," Bradley added.

Reno County Deputy District Attorney Tom Stanton doesn't think marijuana laws should change in Kansas, because he's concerned about the impact it could have to his community.

"I am surprised to hear that they were able to get enough signatures," Stanton said.

Stanton feels most voters don't know all the facts about the harmful effects marijuana has on crime, and on kids.

"What I am hoping is as this discussion goes forward, people will take the time to research the issue and they will find that the use of marijuana will not enhance our society," Stanton said.

Those behind the petition feel it should be up to the public to decide.

"Let us see what the people really want," Bradley said.

Bradley will be talking to the city council on Tuesday, but her group doesn't plan to turn in the signatures until later this month. Once they do, the election office has six working days to validate those signatures to make sure they have enough.

If the group has enough, the council then has 20 days to decide to adopt the petition into law or put it to a public vote in November.