WICHITA, Kansas – Next month, Wichita residents will head to the polls to decide whether to approve a plan to ease the sentence for first time pot possession in Wichita The ordinance would lessen the sentence for first-time, adult offenders convicted of having 32 ounces or less of marijuana.
Now, the proposal is in jeopardy before it goes to the voters. If voters approve the change, it would be at odds with state and federal laws.
On Monday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued his opinion on the matter saying, “A court would find the proposed ordinance void because it would conflict with uniform state laws in numerous ways.”
Esau Freeman has been working to get support for the ordinance for months.
“I’m very disappointed, I think its a strong statement about the state of democracy in Kansas,” said Freeman. “It’s ironic that the attorney general would expect the federal government to respect state rights, but he’s not respecting the city’s rights.”
If the ordinance is approved by voters, it doesn’t automatically become law. The city council would have to officially approve it.
Council member Janet Miller says that seems very unlikely.
“I haven’t heard a single person whose interested in fighting with the state on this issue.”
Miller says the council’s hands were tied.
State statute forces them to either approve an ordinance, or put the issue before voters, if a valid petition is submitted.
She does not see any likelihood that the council would spend money to fight the state.
“I would almost bet my life on the city council not wanting to take any action that would would require us to spend any money fighting with the state, we’re not interested in doing that.”
That is frustrating for Freeman.
“I would encourage whoever is going to be on city council to keep the people who employ them to do that job in the very first part of their minds.”
If voters don’t approve the ordinance, all this becomes a moot point.Related Link: AG Derek Schmidt opinion (ballot information included in opinion)