Kansas City, Missouri is officially free of minor cannabis penalties within state reason. Last month, mayor Quinton Lucas (D) proposed to remove a provision that allows penalties for the possession of cannabis, depending on the quantity. Earlier this month, the proposal was approved after a 9-4 vote. This decision is made in response to the country’s continuing push for racial equality.
“Step one in removing laws that lead to disproportionate stops and incarceration of black women and black men,” said Lucas on Twitter. “Petty drug offenses are an area of the greatest disparity by race despite similar marijuana usage across races.”
Who is Safe?
Before you start parading in the streets of Kansas City smoking a joint, there’s some information you should know. First, is that cannabis possession and consumption is still illegal for adults in Missouri. Unless you possess a medical marijuana card, you will still be penalized for the possession of cannabis outside of Kansas City.
Within Kansas City, local authorities will no longer issue fines to those in possession of cannabis. Previously, the possession of 35 grams or less would result in a $25 fine. The possession of 35 grams or more was punishable by a $500 fine. Now, neither of those penalties will be an option for law enforcement.
“The City doesn’t need to be in the marijuana policing business—and we remain focused on helping open doors to new opportunities & empowering people to make a decent living,” Lucas said on Twitter.
This doesn’t necessarily mean anyone can carry cannabis without any consequences. Authorities still have the ability to arrest for intent to sell. Instead, this is meant to dilute the prison system by eliminating the possibility of racial profiling. A large population within the prison consists of arrests from minor-drug possession. This is a small step towards prison reform and social equality.
A Small Step Toward Legalization
Kansas City has always shown signs of progress in terms of legalizing marijuana. Not only has Mayor Lucas shown his support by introducing this measure, but others, such as Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, have also shown support.
“In 2018 voters overwhelmingly showed their support for medicinal marijuana, making it clear that they want to see reform,” said Parks-Shaw. “Cosponsoring this legislation is a good first step.”
As a result of this overwhelming support, Missouri established a state-wide medical marijuana program. Before this program came into existence, Kansas City residents voted to decriminalize cannabis. Then, in February of this year, Lucas introduced a pardon program that would eliminate convictions for minor marijuana crimes. Kansas City was on the path to legalization this year but had to stop due to COVID-19.
However, cannabis legalization isn’t the main objective for officials. These measures are an attempt to reconstruct the relationships between authorities and neighborhoods affected by the war on drugs. To this day, around the country, police spend way more time in these communities. As a result, tensions rise and create a racially divided community. Yes, this is a small step towards the legalization of cannabis within Missouri. However, this is a bigger step to eliminate the racial division between police and citizens.
“We should stop wondering why there are disproportionately higher negative police-community interactions in neighborhoods where we are ‘over-law’ed,” said Lucas.