Local Activism Brings Pot Decriminalization to Kansas City
The BBQ has always been great in Kansas City, but with the decriminalization of up to 35 grams of cannabis down to a $25 dollar fine, you’d have to presume it’s going to start tasting even better.
St. Louis can keep the arch, we’ll take decriminalized cannabis all day, and so will the voters of Kansas City apparently: In a special election on Tuesday, the city voted to amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older, downgrading the offense from a criminal misdemeanor — which previously meant up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine — to a civil offense punishable only by a $25 fine.
It wasn’t exactly a nailbiter: Question 5 — set to end arrests for possession of marijuana in Kansas City, Missouri — passed with 74 percent of the popular vote.
The initiative was spearheaded by Kansas City NORML. Jamie Kacz, executive director of KC NORML, said stoke levels are understandably high for the organization.
“We could not be more excited about the positive impact passing Question 5 will bring to the communities of Kansas City. We fought long and hard for this result and could not have done it without the support of our volunteers,” Kacz said. “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.”
Kansas City has had its fair share of high profile possession arrests. In 2013 a state representative was put in handcuffs over marijuana. Just last month, Chiefs Tight End Demetrius Harris was booked on felony possession and paraphernalia charges over 35 grams of weed. As TMZ noted, he could have faced seven years with those charges, but after the passage of Question 5, the penalty’s down to a $25 fine — one can only imagine how many milliseconds it takes for an NFL player to make that kind of money.
NORML’s team in DC was obviously thrilled with the results of their chapter’s efforts in Missouri.
“Kansas City now joins the ranks of dozens of cities and states throughout the country that have ended the practice of arresting marijuana consumers,” Kevin Mahmalji, outreach coordinator for NORML, said.“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.”
The nonprofit’s Executive Director, Erik Altieri, also backed the local efforts and was quick to point out their place in the bigger picture of the national cannabis reform wave.
“The passage of this initiative is not just a victory for the people of Kansas City, but for the democratic process,” Altieri said. “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: ‘If you don’t reform our marijuana laws through the legislature, we the people will do it for you.’”
This is not the first time cannabis reform has been in the news lately in Missouri: less than two years ago, Jeff Mizanskey received clemency. Mizanskey had been sentenced to life in prison without parole on a cannabis charge and served nearly two decades of that sentence starting in 1996.
We previously had the chance to ask Mizanskey what the current KC cannabis scene looks like for our official NFL Playoff Strains: “everyone really likes Blue Dream,” he said.
Longtime Missouri activist, Amber Langston, has worked on cannabis issues in the state since 2000. In 2004, she was the campaign manager for the effort to decriminalize in Columbia, Missouri and in 2011 she founded Show Me Cannabis, the state’s tax and regulate effort.
Langston said she’s thrilled with the success of local safe access advocates and emphasized the scale of the victory and the continued progress of the flyover states.
“I am so incredibly proud of the hardworking activists in my home state who put this issue on the ballot and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians,” she said. “There’s no doubt that the years of continued political effort by our grassroots machine and consensus-building within our community has created a situation where a whopping 74% of residents, in an off-year and off-month election, voted to virtually eliminate penalties for cannabis — the progress in the midwest on this issue is absolutely phenomenal!”
TELL US, have you ever been busted for smoking weed?