The initiative petition process should not be the vehicle for changing drug laws in Kansas City. It’s resulted in a flawed Question 5 on next Tuesday’s ballot.
I recommend a “NO” vote on the question.
It would reduce the highest fine for possessing a relatively small amount of marijuana in city court to $25 from $500. It also would eliminate jail time as a penalty.
The Kansas City Star provides a good background story on the measure.
Promoters say it’s time to work toward decriminalizing marijuana possession as well as make the court system fairer to blacks caught with the drug.
Those are noble goals.
But they also could have been pursued through regular channels at City Hall. The City Council could have held hearings on suggested changes, which would have exposed some of the problems with Question 5 at that time.
The council agreed in January to place it on the ballot, with Mayor Sly James opposing it. Council member Alissia Canady pointed out, “I’m concerned with for a couple different reasons that the way this is being presented is very misleading, almost at the edge of deception, in the sense that it`s not just decriminalizing, it`s still criminal, you’re still going to have troubling effects, and the problem we have with drug convictions in this country is the disparity impact it has on minorities.”
Supporters say they can get past some of the concerns. One is to find a way to provide free or reduced-price lawyers for people arrested for marijuana possession.
Again, however, why leave all this up to chance? Changing the drug laws should be done with more precision and thought.
If Question 5 fails, supporters try to get a better ordinance through the City Council in the coming months.