WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita residents have been out at the polls Tuesday casting their votes, but not before being approached by Kansas Hope for Change, a local group petitioning to lower the penalties for possession of marijuana.
The group needs 10,000 signatures within the next 180 days to get the issue on a public ballot for Wichita residents.
If approved, it would lower the penalties for a first time conviction of marijuana possession. If you’re 21 or older and caught with 32 grams or less, you’d pay a $50 fee and get no jail time. This is the third time that the Wichita man behind the petition is trying to make this happen but he says, the third time is a charm.
“We’ve got all our T’s crossed and I’s dotted,” said Esau Freeman.
Freeman is an activist and has been in the position before. He needs enough signatures to have voters decide on whether to lower the penalties for possession of marijuana.
“Not all of them were registered voters and we came up about 14 signatures short on the first one,” said Freeman.
Freeman is set up in front of polling locations on this election day to get those signatures. He tells us this is his third try to get pot penalties on the ballot.
“Well, yeah, you know the first time we learned that we needed registered voters, which is why we’re here in front of polling locations,” explained Freeman. “The second time we turned the petition in without the wording of the full petition on the back.”
Freeman says he’s learned the rules for this time around. He hopes his signature drive will give the community a voice to change marijuana laws which is an issue he is passionate about.
“We on a local level, can say what we want our police to do and what we’d like them not to do and so that’s what this petitions about,” said Freeman. “This is giving local control a chance. Giving the people who pay taxes in this community an opportunity to say what they want through the ballot box.”
While some of the voters KSN spoke with are in favor of changing the law, others say it’s a bad idea.
“I think that it’s dangerous to think about initial pleasure instead of long-term consequences,” said B.J. Madden, Wichita resident.
“There’s so many different diseases and conditions that it helps,” said Carl Williams, another Wichita resident. “It really is a shame we don’t have more access to it because it is a far more benign drug then alcohol and some of the opioids that are legal.”