Ballot initiative run by local group passes 74% to 26% to end arrests for possession of marijuana
In a blowout victory for sensible criminal justice policy, the voters of Kansas City, Missouri have decided by an overwhelming 74 percent to 26 percent to approve Question 5. This will decriminalize marijuana in the city, directing their law enforcement officers to no longer target citizens for possession of the plant. Current criminal penalties are being replaced with just a civil fine.
The measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense. Previously punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, possession will now be punishable by a $25 fine — with no arrest made or criminal record imposed.“We could not be more excited about the positive impact passing Question 5 will bring to the communities of Kansas City,” said Jamie Kacz, executive director of KC NORML. “We fought long and hard for this result and could not have done it without the support of our volunteers.
“The era of reefer madness in Kansas City has come to an end and no longer will otherwise law abiding citizens be targeted or arrested for the mere possession of marijuana,” Kacz said.This is yet another victory in the march to end the criminalization of marijuana in the United States, according to NORML.
“The passage of this initiative is not just a victory for the people of Kansas City, but for the democratic process,” said Erik Altieri, National NORML’s executive director. “When concerned citizens stand up, stand together, and fight back against unjust laws, we will win.
“The overwhelming majority of Americans want to end our nation’s war on marijuana consumers and politicians across the country should take heed of the message voters sent in Missouri,” Altieri said. “If you don’t reform our marijuana laws through the legislature, we the people will do it for you.”
Nationally, more than 600,000 people a year are arrested for simple marijuana possession alone. These arrests are disproportionately targeted. The ACLU found that the racial disparity in marijuana charges were levied against people over color, by nearly 4 to 1.“Kansas City now joins the ranks of dozens of cities and states throughout the country that have ended the practice of arresting marijuana consumers,” said Kevin Mahmalji, outreach coordinator for NORML. “We at NORML are incredibly proud of the efforts of Jamie Kacz and her team at KC NORML and thank the voters of Kansas City for bringing a new era of sanity their law enforcement priorities and the overarching movement to end the prohibition of marijuana.”
A growing list of cities around the country have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other cities have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.