I’m not sure there are many states as determined to slow down marijuana reform as Kansas has been. It’s been a long road for marijuana reformers, who have been shot down at a state level every chance they take. For some, it seemed like the best option was to start smaller – so a group in the city of Wichita decided to work on decriminalization.
They managed to gather the needed 3,000 signatures and the initiative went to the ballots in April 2015. Prior to the voting Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt had announced that if the ordinance passed he would be taking it directly to the supreme court system. The voters passed the ordinance with 54% of the vote and the Attorney General held his word.
There wasn’t even a chance to get the changes in the works before the Supreme Court put the whole thing on hold pending their decision. Who knows why court systems take so long to process things, but they do – and now the decision has been made and they voided the ordinance due to what comes down to improper filing.
According to the Supreme Court, when the petition was filed at the county clerk’s office it should have included a copy of the proposed ordinance, but it did not. Even though the ordinance was available on the group’s website – easily accessible to anyone that wished to see it – since it wasn’t filed the vote wasn’t valid.
“If the only way they can beat us is on a technicality, it really says something about their argument,” said Esau Freeman, one of the organizers for Marijuana Reform Initiative-ICT, which organized the ballot petition.
Had all gone as planned, the city of Wichita would have changed the criminal misdemeanor the state charges to a fine of no more than $50 for adults 21 and older carrying 32 grams or less of marijuana or related paraphernalia. The same offense now stays the same throughout the state with up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
It’s clear that the city of Wichita – among others in the state of Kansas – want to see marijuana reform. Unfortunately, because some people just won’t change their minds or their ways, they are currently stuck in prohibition regardless of their successful vote.
I doubt this will be the end of it however, I think it is likely we will see more from Wichita and Kansas this year – but it won’t be without a fight.
“Whatever one’s views on the merits of current state policy related to marijuana, I think most Kansans agree it makes little sense for the basic rules for enforcing the criminal law to differ from city to city,” Schmidt said.
Perhaps the Attorney General needs to consider coming to a statewide agreement or finally allowing a statewide vote if he is so inclined to have the law standardized across the state? Besides, my home state has at least 2 different counties which have decriminalized and so have many others – and it doesn’t seem to be causing mass confusion here or anywhere else – so let people do what they want in the place they call home!