Voters in Kansas’s largest city, Wichita, approved a municipal ballot measure Tuesday that would reduce penalties for cannabis possession.
Possession would remain a criminal charge under the new law. The measure, which will go into effect only in Wichita, will make a first-time possession offense of 32 grams or fewer punishable by a $50 fine and a court summons, instead of arrest.
Convictions will be expunged after 12 months if the individual is found guilty of no further infractions. If the offender does receive a second possession charge within those 12 months, the penalty would be escalated to a misdemeanor; a third offense would result in a felony.
Current Kansas law treats a first-time possession offense as a misdemeanor, and can carry with it a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail. Repeat offenders can get slapped with felony sentences of 10 months to 3.5 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.
A legal battle is expected to ensue before the ordinance takes effect, with opponents arguing that the city cannot adopt measures that conflict with state law. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is likely to sue the city in an effort to block the measure.
Later this month, lawmakers in Topeka are set to vote on a measure that would lessen penalties for first- and second-time offenses throughout the state.
Photo Credit: Ty Nigh