- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Supporters of an effort to reduce the penalties for being caught with small amounts of marijuana in Wichita have delivered petition signatures to the city for a second time in the hopes of putting the issue to a public vote on April 7.

The petition organizers said Wednesday they collected 4,500 signatures, far more than the 2,928 signatures needed to have the petitions validated, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/14yt2h9 ).

Last summer, a petition to decriminalize marijuana was determined to be 36 signatures short after about 3,600 signatures were disqualified because the signers either lived outside of Wichita or weren’t fully registered to vote in city elections.

The new proposal would make a first offense marijuana possession a criminal infraction with a $50 fine. The suspect would receive a summons or citation rather than being arrested. It would apply only to those ages 21 or older who have 32 grams or less of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.

That is much weaker than the original version, which would have reduced the penalty for marijuana possession from a criminal offense to a civil violation with a maximum penalty of $25. Freeman said the group worked with the city’s legal department to write the new petition.

If the latest signatures are validated, the City Council will have to decide whether to adopt the proposal or put it to a citywide vote.

Esau Freeman, leader of the pro-marijuana group Kansas for Change, called the second petition effort “a great step of success.”

“It is an accomplishment, we did things the right way, we are very certain we have the right number of signatures,” he said.

The Sedgwick County election office will count and certify the signatures. It has no deadline for completing the count, said Sandy Gritz, chief deputy election commissioner for the county.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com

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