More than 70% of voters in Kansas City on Tuesday, April 4, supported a measure to decriminalize the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana. This level of support for Question 5 is truly incredible, considering the fact that the voter turnout for municipal elections is typically very low and those who tend to vote in such elections skew toward the older and more conservative demographics.
It is also a remarkable outcome given the fact that The Kansas City Star newspaper repeatedly editorialized against the measure, calling it “a confusing half-step that didn’t solve a difficult problem”. Apparently the voters did not share The Star’s confusion and recognized the fact that political change is almost always evolutionary. Politics, after all, is the art of compromise. Opposing a measure because it is does not achieve everything one wants is a sure path to political oblivion.
The measure fits the classic definition of “decriminalization” because it eliminates arrests for possession, eliminates jail as a punishment and convictions in Missouri municipal courts are not considered criminal convictions. This initiative limits the fines for possession to a maximum of $25.
Based in part on an initiative passed in Columbia, Missouri in 2004, the KC initiative was placed on the ballot by NORML’s Kansas City Chapter led by Jamie Kacz who said, “It’s a very positive result . . . . Kansas City is ready for this change”.
Some opponents had argued that, because the City’s current contract with Legal Aid of Western Missouri allows Legal Aid to only represent defendants faced with the possibility of jail, the measure would deprive indigent defendants in that court of free legal representation. Those opponents failed to recognize that the obvious solution to this “problem” is to change the contract. It is foolish to argue that we need to continue threatening to put people in jail just so they can have a free attorney. If the crocodile tears shed by opponents reflected a real concern for the welfare of marijuana defendants, those opponents will recognize this and pursue amending the contract with Legal Aid.
In fact, Missouri NORML Coordinator Dan Viets spoke with attorneys on staff with Legal Aid who confirmed that they would certainly be willing to continue representing such defendants, even if the decriminalization initiative passed.
Further, under a new law which goes into effect January 1, 2018, such convictions can be expunged from all public records, so even those who choose to pay the $25 fine rather than be placed on probation and subjected to drug testing will still be able to eliminate this impediment to employment.
For More Information Contact
Dan Viets at 573-819-2669 or
Jamie Kacz at 816-974-3412 or