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Kansas City Launches Process To Help Clear Marijuana Convictions More Easily

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As increasing numbers of city and state governments move toward marijuana legalization, Kansas City introduces a free, online system to seek pardons for possession.

As city and state governments across the country legalize marijuana, Kansas City’s mayor wants to make it easier to clean the slate for people convicted of some cannabis-related offenses.

Mayor Quinton Lucas introduced an online system Tuesday afternoon that lets people convicted on municipal marijuana possession charges in Kansas City ask for pardons — free of charge.

“What I want to be able to do for these folks is to say, ‘You might’ve made a mistake at some point, but that we’re going to be fair in how we apply the law in Kansas City and in Missouri,’” Lucas said.

City officials said they hoped that the pardons would make it easier for people who had convictions to apply for jobs, rent property or navigate the criminal justice system, even if the benefits would be somewhat limited.

Someone who has obtained a pardon still would need to indicate on some job applications that they had been convicted of a crime, but officials said a potential employer might be less inclined to dimiss an applicant if the conviction had been pardoned.

Lucas said he was responding to city, state and national trends toward marijuana legalization and the will of voters who approved decriminalization in April 2017.

“I’m going to make sure I use every power I have as mayor of Kansas City to make sure this is a place that believes in true criminal justice reform and looks for opportunities — better opportunities for people long-term,” Lucas said.

Pardons would not be guaranteed. Instead, they'd be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Lucas said his office would consider factors including the numbers of possession convictions and convictions for other criminal offenses.

Pardons do not remove convictions from criminal records. That can only be done through expungement, which is done through courts.

The online pardon system can only address violations of Kansas City ordinances, not convictions from the state or other governments. Lucas said he expects his office will receive hundreds of requests for pardons.

Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. You can reach him by email at alexs@kcur.org.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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