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Kansas Supreme Court to Consider Wichita Marijuana Ordinance

Photo by Stephen Koranda
Photo by Stephen Koranda

An ordinance in Wichita that lowers penalties for marijuana possession is headed before the Kansas Supreme Court Thursday. In April, Wichita voters approved the idea of reducing the penalty for first-time marijuana possession to a $50 fine. That sparked a legal challenge from Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who says the local ordinance conflicts with state law.

“If they want to act contrary to state law, they need to convince the Legislature. Asking the city of Wichita to override state law just is not a valid option,” says Schmidt.

Under state law, first-time marijuana possession charges could bring up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine.

Esau Freeman is a Wichita activist pushing for an overhaul of marijuana laws. He calls it hypocrisy that Kansas politicians often talk about local control, but then oppose local decisions like the vote on marijuana.  

“When you have people make a statement like this, there is no better example of local control,” says Freeman.

Attorneys for the city of Wichita say the local policy doesn’t conflict with state law because marijuana would still be illegal, there would just be options for reduced penalties in some cases. The ordinance has been on hold because of the legal challenge.

Stephen Koranda is KPR's Statehouse reporter.