Ballot initiative run by local group passes 71 to 29 to end arrests for possession of marijuana
Kansas City, MO – In a blowout victory for sensible criminal justice policy, the voters of Kansas City, Missouri have decided to approve Question 5 and decriminalize marijuana to direct their law enforcement officers to no longer target citizens for possession of the plant and would replace current criminal penalties 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, previously punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a civil offense 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. We fought long and hard for this result and could not have done it without the support of our volunteers,” said Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of KC NORML. “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.”
This is yet another victory in the march to end the criminalization of marijuana in the United States.
“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: 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.”
Kansas City now joins a growing list of cities around the country that 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 several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.
Language in Question 1: the Marijuana Legalization Act, specific to the private possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults took effect today. It permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and/or the harvest of up to six mature plants.
Public use of marijuana is a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine.
Maine voters narrowly passed Question 1 on Election Day.
In response to Question 1, Maine lawmakers passed separate legislation, LD 88, permitting adults to possess up to five grams of marijuana concentrates. However, other provisions in the measure delay the implementation of retail marijuana sales until at least February 1, 2018. It also prohibits the possession of “edible retail marijuana products” until this date.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption and/or sale of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences.
Legislators in a number of states are pushing forward measures to delay the enactment of several voter-initiated marijuana laws.
In Arkansas, House lawmakers are moving forward with legislation, House Bill 1026, to postpone the deadline for establishing the state’s new medical marijuana program by 60 days. Fifty-three percent of voters approved Issue 6 on Election Day, which called on lawmakers to regulate the production and dispensing of medical cannabis within 120 days.
In Maine, leading House and Senate lawmakers have endorsed emergency legislation, LD 88, to delay retail marijuana sales by at least three months. Under the voter-initiated law, rules regulating the commercial marijuana market are supposed to be operational by January 1, 2018. (By contrast, separate provisions permitting adults to possess and grow specific quantities of cannabis take effect on January 30, 2017.)
In North Dakota, Senate lawmakers unanimously passed emergency legislation, Senate Bill 2154, to postpone the deadline for the enactment of the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act. Sixty-four percent of voters backed the measure, which gave lawmakers a 90-day window to regulate the distribution of medical marijuana.
Massachusetts’ lawmakers previously enacted legislation imposing a six-month delay on the licensed production and retail sales of marijuana. Legislators are also debating making additional changes to the law, including raising the proposed retail sales tax and limiting the number of plants an adult may grow at home.
In Florida, health regulators are also calling for significant changes to Amendment 2, which passed with 71 percent of the vote.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri strongly criticized the proposed changes and delays, calling them “an affront to the democratic process.” He added: “Voters have lived with the failings of marijuana prohibition for far too long already. Lawmakers have a responsibility to abide by the will of the voters and to do so in a timely manner.”
Governor Paul LePage on Saturday certified the results of Question 1: The Marijuana Legalization Act. The voter-initiated measure narrowly passed on Election Day and was subject to a partial recount. By law, the measure becomes law 30 days after the Governor has affirmed the results.
At that time, adults who are not participating in the state’s medical cannabis program will be able to legally possess up to two and one-half ounces of cannabis and/or the total harvest produced by six mature plants.
Maine will become the eight US state to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for adults who possess marijuana for their own personal use.
Separate provisions in the measure also establish regulations for the commercial cultivation, retail sale, and social use of cannabis. Regulations governing marijuana-related businesses are scheduled to be in place by August 8, 2017. However, the Governor has called on lawmakers to push back this timeline. Massachusetts lawmakers last week enacted a similar delay to their retail sales program.
Governor LePage has been a strong opponent of implementing Question 1, stating “If there was ever a bill that the legislature should just kibosh, that’s it.” He has also suggested increasing the retail sales tax rates associated with the measure, as well as abolishing the state’s medical cannabis program, which has been in place since 1999 — positions that NORML opposes.
This Sunday, Nevada will become the seventh US state to eliminate criminal penalties specific to the adult possession and personal use of cannabis.
“What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “Voters in the western region of the United States are leading the way toward the eventual nationwide re-legalization of marijuana by responsible adults. Federal laws need to reflect this reality, not deny it.”
On Election Day, 55 percent of Nevada voters approved Question 2, the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The law permits adults who are not participating in the state’s existing medical cannabis program to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and/or up to 3.5 grams of cannabis concentrates. An adult may also lawfully grow up to six plants in their home if they reside 25 miles or more away from a marijuana retailer. Provisions in the law also permit for the possession and sale of marijuana-related paraphernalia as well as the gifting of small amounts of cannabis for no financial remuneration. Public use of the plant remains a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $600.
Separate provisions in the statute also license the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis, which will be subject to a 15 percent excise tax. Those regulations do not take effect until January 1, 2018.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington have previously adopted voter-initiated laws legalizing the private consumption of cannabis by adults. The District of Columbia also permits adults to legally possess and grow personal use quantities of marijuana in private residences. Similar legislation in Maine is anticipated to go into effect later next month.