Kansas City, Missouri lawmakers voted on Thursday to remove cannabis possession from the city code, effectively decriminalizing low-level cannabis-related offenses, the Kansas City Star reports. The crimes can still be prosecuted by county prosecutors who wish to pursue the case.
In 2017, Kansas City voters approved a decriminalization measure which replaced criminal penalties for cannabis possession up to 35 grams with a civil fine of $25. Thursday’s City Council vote removed that penalty.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has already said she would no longer prosecute low-level possession; however, portions of Kansas City are in Clay, Platte, and Cass counties, and prosecutors in those counties could choose to bring a criminal case.
Due to this geographical issue, some city councilors and advocates said removing cannabis possession from the city code might actually make it more likely prosecutors outside of Jackson County would levy criminal charges because it removed the citywide protections afforded by the 2017 reforms.
Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said people in her district could receive harsher penalties than those in districts in the neighboring counties.
“By taking this option from the police of being able to file something that’s a city charge and instead taking it to the state prosecutor, we’re putting any of those African Americans and Hispanics who are stopped while … in Clay and Platte county in a possession of perhaps facing much more serious state charges.” – Shields via the Star
Mayor Quinton Lucas told the council that 90 percent of possession cases in Kansas City happened in Jackson County and wondered whether they would backtrack on something that would benefit 90 percent of those affected “because of the 10 percent.”
The measure was approved 9-4.
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