For the past three or so decades, the federal government has punished individuals charged with marijuana possession quite harshly. Ever since the ‘War on Drugs’ began, certain communities have been unfairly stereotyped, targeted and punished for marijuana offenses. Although people of all races are likely to purchase and consume cannabis, people of color are much more likely to be arrested and prosecuted compared to other races. Proponents for marijuana legalization have argued that decriminalizing marijuana will go a long way in righting these wrongs.
Last week, the Kansas City Council in Missouri passed an ordinance ending all penalties for marijuana possession under local laws. The cannabis measure was filed by Mayor Quinton Lucas and four local lawmakers last month and the vote to approve it was 9-4. The measure repealed a provision of the Code of Ordinances which stipulates that possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana carries a $25 fine and more than 35 grams carries a $500 fine.
Mayor Lucas who had previously said he was planning on pursuing other efforts to remove other ‘minor drug offenses from our code’, announced on social media that the City Council had passed Ordinance #200455 to remove marijuana from the City Code of Ordinances. “The city doesn’t need to be in the marijuana policing business, and we remain focused on helping open doors to new opportunities and empowering people to make a decent living,” he said in celebration of the development.
Although the text of the ordinance does not change Missouri state law that criminalizes cannabis for non-medical use, it describes the racial disparity in marijuana possession arrests and states that the Council “believes future resources should be focused on the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of violent crime in Kansas City.” This comes a few months after Mayor Lucas announced that he would pardon decades’ worth of municipal marijuana offenses, a move he stated was “fundamentally a question of fairness.”
He argued that society had grown more lenient towards marijuana in recent years, and people with old convictions shouldn’t be held to harsher punishments than are being doled out now. The goal, he said, was to give those with old convictions a second chance. “When you look at the sources of public safety challenges in our community, it’s not those who are using recreational or small amounts of marijuana, and what I want to be able to do for these folks is to say, “You might have made a mistake at some point, but that we’re going to be fair in how we apply, frankly, the law in Kansas City and Missouri.”
The step taken by the Kansas City Council is likely to be applauded be cannabis sector players like Green Growth Brands Inc. (CSE: GGB) (OTCQB: GGBXF) who want to see injustices associated with marijuana criminalization ended.
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