TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- Legislatures and state officials gathered in Wichita Friday to urge residents to vote on a marijuana initiative on Tuesday’s spring election ballot.
The proposed ordinance does not legalize marijuana. The initiative would reduce the penalty for first time offenders of marijuana possession in the city. It makes first-time possession a criminal infraction with a $50 fine. Under state law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail.
The group cited Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s recent comments on the initiative being illegal to vote no. Schmidt says the public vote is illegal because it violates statutes, procedures and Supreme Court precedent.
Wichita lawmakers previously asked Wichita mayor Carl Brewer and the Wichita City Council to not place the initiative on the ballot.
“It’s clear this initiative is illegal on multiple levels. Primarily, city ordinance does not supersede state law, so even if the measure were to pass it would have no legal effect,” said State Representative Mark Kahrs,(R-Wichita), who is a practicing attorney. “In order to avoid the legal disputes between the City of Wichita and the State of Kansas, and the wasted taxpayer dollars doing so, we ask voters to reject the initiative at the ballot box on Tuesday.”
Seventeen state legislators and top officials from the Department of Corrections, Department for Children and Families, Sedgwick County Sheriff and the Sedgwick County District Attorney attended the rally.
“If the measure were to pass, the Attorney General would have no choice but to file a suit to enforce state law by seeking judicial confirmation of the ordinance’s invalidity,” said Representative Steve Brunk, (R-Wichita). “We need to prevent confusion among the citizens of Wichita about the legality of recreational drug use and possible penalties.”