The Wichita City Council has unanimously voted to give initial approval to an ordinance that would reduce penalties for some first-time marijuana offenses.
The approved ordinance would require a $50 fine for most first-time offenders of possessing marijuana; if over 21, they would not have to undergo drug-related counseling. Currently a first-time marijuana possession offense can result in up to a year in jail and/or a maximum fine of up to $2,500. Unfortunately courts would still have the option to impose such penalties if they feel appropriate in a case-by-case basis.
Under the proposed law, a second offense for marijuana possession would still bring forth the harsh penalty of imprisonment of up to a year and/or a find of up to $2,500. The ordinance will need to be approved through one more council vote – not yet scheduled – before it can take effect.
“At the end of the day, we’re toeing the line regarding legalities,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell. “We’re pushing the envelope about as far as we can push the envelope on this. It’s not, at this point, in any way decriminalizing.”
As noted by the Associated Press, Wichita voters approved reducing some marijuana penalties in 2015 through a citizens initiative. The election results were challenged by Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who argued it conflicted with state law. In 2016 the Kansas Supreme Court invalidated the election results, citing a technicality in the petition process.
Wichita is the largest city in the state of Kansas and the 50th-largest city in the United States