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Wichita City Council Gives Initial Approval To Lowering Marijuana Penalties

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Wichita City Council members gave first approval to an ordinance lowering the maximum penalty for marijuana possession. The change would bring the city into compliance with a 2016 state law.

Credit Mayor Jeff Longwell/Facebook
Mayor Jeff Longwell posted about the vote on his Facebook.

Under the amended ordinance, the penalty for first-time marijuana possession is lowered from a Class A to a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction could carry a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail, down from $2500 and a year in jail. A lab fee could also be assessed.

A person caught with a small amount of marijuana -- defined as 32 grams or less -- and who doesn’t have prior felony or other convictions, will receive a $50 fine, but won't be arrested. The "presumptive penalty" only applies if someone is:

  • over the age of 21
  • has not been convicted of a felony in the previous five years
  • has not been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor in the previous three years
  • has not been found guilty of more than one prior conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession in the previous three years, and
  • has not been charged with a felony, criminal offense, or DUI related to the same marijuana offense (source: City of Wichita)

A municipal court will determine sentencing. The city says about 80 percent of possession cases are for "a small amount" of marijuana.

Read the amended ordinance here.

Councilwoman Lavonta Williams says the new ordinance is a first step.

“Many, many lives have already been ruined for just small amounts of marijuana, and in many cases it has shown people the inside of a prison that it should not have happened," she said. "And so we’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go.”

The amendment doesn’t go as far as a 2015 referendum in Wichita that was later struck down by the state Supreme Court. That would have lowered the penalty from $2500 to $50.


Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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