Marijuana petition seeks to lower fines/jail time

Published On: Apr 01 2014 05:34:21 PM CDT
Marijuana petition

Are the penalties for possessing marijuana too stiff in Kansas? One group thinks so, and it's starting a petition in Wichita to change that.

Kansas for Change needs 4300 more signatures to get the question before city leaders, and potentially on the November ballot.

"It's David and Goliath," said Kansas for Change Co-Founder Esau Freeman.

Freeman feels a lot like David when it comes to changing marijuana laws in Kansas, but he says it's worth the fight.

"This keeps people from getting jobs, this keeps people from getting financial aide," Freeman said. "This really wrecks peoples lives."

That's why his group is starting a petition to decriminalize possession of marijuana. Right now, anyone caught with the drug in Kansas faces a year in jail and a $2500 fine. Kansas for Change wants the fine to drop to $25 with no jail time. Other groups in Kansas agree.

"50% of our incarcerated prisoners are there because of marijuana, and it just seems counter productive," said Carl Williams with KS Silver Haired Legislature.

Even if the petition gets enough signatures and Wichita voters approve it on the ballot, it won't be enough to change state law. Only legislators can do that.

Any bill dealing with marijuana has failed to get out of committee in the past few years, which is why Freeman's group is pushing for change through city governments

"We understand this will be trumped by state law, but it sends a message to legislators," Freeman said. "We will be back up there in January, and we will have more supporters and they will get more phone calls."

Freeman knows of similar petitions being started in Lawrence and Wyandotte county. He hopes more will join in because he feels it will eventually force lawmakers to look at changing marijuana legislation.

Kansas for Change hopes to get enough signatures by late July, because the City has to verify the petition before it can end up on the ballot.