After Losing Court Fight, Wichita, Kansas Tries Again to Reduce Marijuana Penalties

WICHITA, KS — The Wichita City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to give preliminary approval to an ordinance that aims to reduce penalties for some first-time marijuana offenses.

Under the ordinance approved Tuesday, which still requires another vote at a later date, first time offenders would receive a $50 fine for possessing marijuana.

Here are the details of the ordinance according to kansas.com:

  • Wichita police, absent any other state or federal warrant, will not arrest offenders simply for having marijuana – instead, they will be given a notice to appear in municipal court, much like receiving a parking ticket.
  • The presumptive sentence for a first-time offense will be $50, and first-time offenders will not be obligated to complete drug-related counseling if they are over 21 years old. The court still has the discretion to impose a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail – reduced from the previous penalty of $2,500 and up to one year in jail. A second marijuana conviction will come with a fine not to exceed $2,500 and one year in jail.
  • To bring the city into compliance with state law, offenders who are required to complete drug testing at the Regional Forensic Science Center (typically in cases that go to trial) are required to pay the associated laboratory fees, which typically cost about $400.
  • The presumptive sentence will not apply to those who have been convicted of a felony in the past five years, been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor in the past three years, who have been convicted of marijuana possession at least once in the past three years, or who were arrested on suspicion of any felony, criminal misdemeanor or DUI offense in conjunction with the alleged marijuana offense.

Currently, under state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 for a first time offense.

Wichita voters approved a measure in 2015 to reduce penalties for some marijuana offenses, but that ordinance was overturned by the state supreme court in 2016 because of flaws in the paperwork for the petition.

Wichita is the largest city in Kansas.

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