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Marijuana Offence and Kansas City, Missouri No Jail Term

In April 2017, Kansas City became the seventh city in Missouri to vote for the abolition of marijuana-related fines. The city enacted the current drug law after St. Louis and Columbia revised their weed policies (Cummings). Residents in the city agreed to eliminate the prison time and fines connected with offenses containing a limited amount of weed in the city. The felony is now known as a misdemeanor, and the individuals can face only minor fines and no prison time. More than 97 percent of town residents voted, with more than 75 percent of voters preferring the abolition of prison time and heavy penalties (Cummings). The legal changes meant that the possession of marijuana below 35 grams should have charges including a fine worth $25 and no jail term. These charges were altered from the previous law which included a possibility of a 180-days jail term with a fine of not less than $500 (Cummings). The changes have raised eyebrows in the city and across US politics as it has been linked with the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana.

Cause and Effect of No Jail Term for Marijuana in Kansas City

With the new law in place, many residents in Kansas have not yet understood the real cause as well as the effects associated with the legal changes. This issue of amendment of the law regulating use and possession of marijuana has raised concern as it has formed an example of law agenda, which is critical at both the national and local level. According to the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (KC NORML), the changes attempt to solve some of the numerous marijuana cases, which have extremely increased in the last couple of years (Cummings). Most of these cases had issues that prompted the legal changes in the KC NORML.

Cause of the New Kansas Marijuana Law

Firstly, according to the KC NORML executive director, Jamie Kacz, over 1000 marijuana arrests were recorded in 2015. At the same time, many of the arrested individuals were youthful offenders aged at 28 years and below. Similarly, the same amount of cases appeared in 2016. However, these cases constituted of over 70% black marijuana offenders (Crozier). Contrary to the statistics, only 30% of the Kansas City residents are African American. Research has also shown that the use of marijuana is at the same rate across all the races. Therefore, the association of some individuals or races with marijuana shows that some members of the population were unfairly targeted to be linked with drug cases. Therefore, through voting in favor of the initiative, many people aimed at opposing the excessive arrest of individuals from certain groups of the population. Voters were against the discriminatory arrests over the possession of marijuana witnessed in the recent years.

Secondly, KC NORML recorded over 2000 marijuana cases in Kansas City in 2015 and 2016. Most of the offenders were found to possess 10-50 grams of marijuana. This issue means that over 2000 people would have been charged with jail terms and fines for the possession of the illegal drug (Cummings). Henceforth, with such arrest cases every year, many individuals may not be able to avoid jail term in the city due to the high rate of involvement in possession of marijuana. According to Kacz, many people who voted in favor of the amendment reported that they wanted the elimination of the jail term and high fines due to the possession of marijuana. Simply, Kansas City residents do not want any jail term and fines associated with a small amount of marijuana.

Lastly, in many cases, the individuals arrested for marijuana possession are unable to secure an attorney for their case. Therefore, many defendants end up relying on the Legal Aid of Western Missouri for their cases. Legal Aid comprises of several attorneys who represent defendants in the Municipal Court in case of the possibility of a jail term as a result of marijuana offense (Crozier). The high fee set by the attorneys in Kansas City renders many defendants to attend their cases with the help of the Legal Aid only. In case when the individuals are unable to address their cases according to the Legal Aid’s advice, they end up facing a jail term and the fines associated. With the introduction of the legal changes in the city, a significant number of cases related to marijuana will be away from the courts’ processes. Many individuals will avoid court cases related to the possession of marijuana. At the same time, individuals will avoid association with a jail term and fines (Crozier). However, where defendants are charged with a possession of over 35 grams of marijuana, individuals will be liable to a drug conviction. Thus, the law changes have only been passed to reduce the number of cases and jail term associated with marijuana but not to legalize the possession and use of marijuana.

In several states such as Colorado, possession, and use of marijuana is fully legalized and free from fines and jailing. According to the Kansas City Councilwoman, Alissia Canady, the changes in the law are applicable where individuals settle their cases in the court in the city (Horsley). In addition, where defendants are found guilty of an offense, the current law requires the court to order to a fine and not a jail term. The imposition of a lax fine will serve to limit possession of marijuana rather than no fine at all.

Lastly, the previous law on marijuana many held defendants liable to a jail term and a fine after a marijuana arrest. In such cases, there were numerous arrests and numerous cases in the Municipal Court concerning the pot possession. As a result, the municipal law allowed little or no time for other legal terms such as property, financial fraud, and robberies among others. Kacz saw the new law as an effective means to ensure that law enforcement to focus on other legal matters rather than spending a lot of time on marijuana and other drug cases.

Effects of the New Kansas Marijuana Law

Since April, the law has been in place in Kansas City. There have been many consequences resulted by the implementation of the law. Firstly, the law has led to confusion on the legal regulation of marijuana. The law was implemented to reduce jail term and fines cases associated with marijuana. Unlike Colorado, the law did not legalize marijuana. However, with the lax fines and absence of jail term, many city residents may feel that pot possession has been legalized. As a result, those who think that they might use or possess the drug without strict legal requirements will end up prosecuted. Prosecution for pot possession appears in the individual criminal records despite paying fines. As a result, marijuana conviction may affect one as they look for a job, seek admission to institutions, or seek background check.

Secondly, the law applies to the marijuana cases that are bound by the City courts. In a case where an individual is arrested carrying 0-35 grams of marijuana, they will receive a fine and no any jail term. For 35 or more grams of marijuana, one will be exposed to a 180-days jail term and a fine worth $500. This law is applicable only when individuals are charged by the Kansas City Police Department. Otherwise, any marijuana arrest that takes place in other areas of the state, the early Missouri marijuana law still applies (Crozier). This law involves no jail term and a $500 fine for pot possession amounting to 0-10 grams of marijuana and respective 1 to 7-years jail terms and $2000-$10000 inclusive fines for cases involving the possession of marijuana (Cummings). Kansas City residents may face a jail term and more substantial fines while in other areas within Missouri or other states.

Lastly, in the past cases involving marijuana, the Municipal Court appointed attorneys in-charge of representing the defendants to avoid a jail term during court rulings. The attorneys made the renounced Legal Aid of Western Missouri (Horsley). The defendants who were unable to hire attorneys benefitted from the services provided by the Legal Aid during their cases. The attorneys were useful in helping individual defendants to avoid a jail term. With the incoming new law on pot possession, Municipal Court judges have found no need to appoint Legal Aid attorneys since the marijuana cases do not involve jail term (Crozier). However, marijuana remains an illegal drug and its possession and/or use is prohibited in Kansas City and Missouri at large. Therefore, individuals in possession of marijuana can still face prosecution and prospective jail terms if found guilty of possession. This means that the defendants who will not be able to hire the attorneys will not again benefit from the previous services offered by the Legal Aid. As a result, individuals convicted for the drug possession will likely face an unavoidable jail term. This issue will primarily affect the defendants who cannot hire personal attorneys for their cases.

Conclusion

The introduction of the new law on marijuana in Kansas City has caused views and opinions among the city residents. Many city residents are yet to understand the dictates of the law as well as its limitations. Some have taken the law as a step to legalize marijuana, especially with the New Approach Missouri to legalize the drug on the edge. The current law was introduced because of various marijuana-related cases such as discriminatory arrests, excessive jailing of individuals caught with marijuana, and differences in opinions concerning marijuana possession among the city residents. According to the NORML KC, the law will be easy for the city residents to abide after the step to fully legalize the drug, which is due in 2018.

Works Cited

Crozier, Justin M. “How Kansas City Missouri’s Marijuana Possession Law Affects You.” Crozier Law LLC, September, 2017, https://www.crozierlaw.net/blog/how-kansas-city-missouris-marijuana-possession-law-affects-you/. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

Cummings, Ian. “KC Voters Approve Lower Penalty For Pot Possession: $25 Fine or no Jail.” The Kansas City Star, April 2017, http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article142751154.html. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.

Horsley, Lynn. “Five Things to Know about Kansas City’s New Marijuana Law”. Government & Politics, April, 2017, http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article143454844.html. Accessed 21 Oct. 2017.

August 09, 2021

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