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Kansas City Marijuana Advocates Submit Signatures For Decriminalization

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After several months of collecting signatures, area marijuana reformers have submitted enough petition signatures to bring a decriminalization ordinance to the April ballot in Kansas City, Missouri. 

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' Kansas City branch submitted more than 4,200 signatures to the city clerk's office on Tuesday. 

Under their proposal, if someone is caught with less than 35 grams of marijuana, they would get maximum fine of $25 and wouldn't be arrested. Current Missouri penalties for the same amount of marijuana include possible incarceration and fines up to $1,000. 

Similar ordinances have been passed in St. Louis and Columbia. 

Efforts to get their proposal on the November ballot fell short, but NORML-KCExecutive Director Jamie Kacz says she's grateful they had more time to collect extra signatures. 

"Election Day was very successful for us. We collected over 2,300 signatures, and those signatures are guaranteed to be from registered voters in Kansas City," Kacz says. 

Kacz says too many people go to jail for small amounts of marijuana.  She says nearly a thousand people were arrested for marijuana possession in Kansas City in 2015. Half of those people, she says, were under the age of 28. 

"It's going to affect them for the rest of their lives and we don't need to be incarcerating people for non-violent offenses like that," Kacz says. 

She also says groups are still working on bringing a medical marijuana program to the state. Efforts to get a medical cannabis measure on Missouri's November ballot fell shortwhen election officials invalidated more than 10,000 petition signatures. 

Kacz says nationwide, attitudes towards marijuana are changing. 

Several states passed marijuana legalization initiatives on Election Day. 

As far as Kansas City's decriminalization initiative, Kacz is confident that the city will find the petition is legally sound. 

"It's always an uphill battle dealing with cannabis reform, so we are expecting some pushback and some opposition but I'm  confident for a positive outcome," she says.

Election authorities now have 10 days to verify that the signature for the Kansas City petition are valid. If the initiative petition is found sufficient, the city council has 60 says to act. 

If the council does not adopt the petition or modifies it, petitioners can require the ordinance be submitted to a vote of the people of Kansas City. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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