Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

City marijuana ordinance courted

Group seeking municipal, not state, prosecution of offenses

August 24, 2005


If a newly formed group gets its way, marijuana will become a low priority for Lawrence police.

Getting busted for pot would be similar to getting a speeding ticket. And, marijuana-possession cases would be resolved in a streamlined fashion in city court.

The changes, which are supported by the city's mayor, have been proposed by a group called the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, which formed in May and has an office at 941 Ky.

Last week, the group's executive director, Laura Green, wrote a letter to city commissioners asking them to consider writing a marijuana and drug paraphernalia ordinance into the city code. The commission is expected to discuss the issue at its Sept. 6 meeting.

"We're not proposing legalization," the 44-year-old Green said Tuesday. "I'm just asking them to consider making it part of the city code. ... Part of what I'm asking them to do is to make possession of marijuana a low priority. Don't seek it out. Don't go looking for it as if it's the Holy Grail."

Fewer pot arrests?

Unlike other Kansas cities - including Wichita, Topeka and Olathe - Lawrence has no city ordinances covering marijuana. That means the cases must be handled in District Court instead of the more informal, streamlined city court.

In Green's view, cases involving small amounts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia should be handled with a citation and notice to appear in city court, not an arrest. Penalties in city court would be similar to those already being handed down in District Court, she said: a combination of diversion, treatment, probation and a maximum fine of $2,500 or a year in jail.

Cases involving second-time possession - a felony under Kansas law - would still be handled in District Court.

Green argues the change would save state tax dollars required to investigate and prosecute marijuana cases in District Court.

"We have so many hands out at the state budget level that we have to be very careful about where we put those resources," she said.

And, Green said, shifting the prosecutions to city court would keep students from being disqualified for federal financial aid under the terms of a 1998 federal law.

"I don't want to see a young person denied the opportunity to go to college because they made a mistake," she said.

D.A., mayor supportive

Dist. Atty. Charles Branson, whose office now handles all marijuana cases in Douglas County, said he's not in a position to tell police what their priorities should be. But he likes the idea of sending marijuana-possession cases to city court.

"The District Court system is here, in my opinion, for more serious cases," he said. "There's a lot of savings, I think, in being able to have a city court be able to do these things."

No detailed figures were available Tuesday, but Branson estimated the move would reduce his caseload by two or three cases per week.

Mayor Boog Highberger said he was generally supportive of Green's ideas, in large part because of the issues involving student financial aid.

Under the 1998 Higher Education Act, Green said, students are disqualified for financial aid if they have a drug conviction in state or federal court. According to Green's figures, more than 160,500 students nationwide have been found ineligible for financial aid because of the law.

But Green and others said the law doesn't apply to convictions in municipal court

"It wouldn't bar a student from getting financial aid," Highberger said. "That's appropriate because I think that would be a pretty harsh penalty for getting caught with a little pot."

When told that KU officials had previously said that it seemed very few of their students were affected by the law, Highberger said: "How do they really know? How many students aren't applying at all because they know they won't get anything?"

'It is a crime'

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Highberger also said he supports the idea of making it a lower enforcement priority for police.

"I don't think vigorously prosecuting people for small amounts of marijuana is a very good use of our limited resources," he said.

Highberger stressed that he only was talking about cases involving small amounts of marijuana for personal use, not cases involving drug dealers.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wasn't sure whether he supported the changes and was awaiting more information and input from other leaders. Amyx said he wouldn't consider anything that would lessen penalties for marijuana use.

"I would never think of doing that," he said.

Amyx also said he didn't support making marijuana less of an enforcement priority.

"I don't think those are my feelings at all. It is a crime, and that is what we do. We carry out laws. ... It is not something where you pass a law and then just wink at it," he said.

Simpler approach

Green said the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas was filing its official papers to become a nonprofit corporation. Green and attorney Bob Eye are co-founders of the group.

The effort to draft a city law comes on the heels of a similar, successful ballot initiative in Columbia, Mo. The city prosecutor in Columbia began a practice of deferring prosecution on first-time marijuana offenses. If the person stays out of trouble for a year, the case never is filed.

Lawrence City Prosecutor Jerry Little said handling the cases in city court would simplify things. For example, in District Court, prosecutors routinely request $400 lab tests from the state to verify a suspect substance is marijuana. In city court, Little said, prosecutors likely would skip that step unless there's a dispute about what the substance is.

But Little said there are still unresolved questions about how a marijuana ordinance would work, such as what amounts of the drug would be considered for "personal use" instead of for sale.

Staff writer Chad Lawhorn contributed information to this article.


topflight 12 years, 8 months ago

you have got to be kidding me. they may as well legalize it. next thing you know, people will be smoking it at restaurant patios and then i will have to smell that crap. IDIOTS, they are all idiots. whats next, legalize driving drunk

Steve Jacob 12 years, 8 months ago

As I say over and over again, when people go to drug rehab for hard drugs, how did they first start? With pot.

As for new drug laws, it's hard to get arrested for pot in the first place. Aslong as you don't sell it, and don't drive while smoking it, you almost never get arrested in this town.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago


How do you know anyone started with pot? 3.2 beer may have been the culprit.

Decriminalize pot. Allow folks to grow their own. That removes it from the illicit trafficking. Accept it like 3.2 beer.

rooga 12 years, 8 months ago


lighten up! its just a little pot. smoking MJ never killed anyone

cowboy 12 years, 8 months ago

Get this done and quickly , it makes sense !

majic12 12 years, 8 months ago

But who will protect the pharmaceutical industry?

Baille 12 years, 8 months ago

Started with pot? With that logic we should criminalize tobacco and beer.

And comparing changing the type of state response to those who possess small amounts of marijuana - or even decriminalizing possession of said amounts - with decriminalizing drunk driving is a faulty analogy. It is more akin with ending Prohibition.

majic12 12 years, 8 months ago

The Midwest is ankle-deep in methamphetamine, and the Idiot Faction thinks pot is a priority. This region truly is the Land That Time Forgot.

imagold 12 years, 8 months ago

Marijuana is illegal. Period. Quit trying to make breaking the law 'a little bit' acceptable. Keep on the straight and narrow and you won't have to worry about law officers, tickets, what court you'll have to appear in, financial aid, etc.

doc1 12 years, 8 months ago

This is dumb. Whe all as parents are trying to keep our kids educated about drugs. To protect them and hope they choose not to try it. Immagine the ripple effect and signal this will send. Its a bad idea.

Most crime is also linked directly to drug addiction. I know who I'll be voting for the next mayor.

otislivingston 12 years, 8 months ago

"Marijuana is illegal."

So was blacks eating with whites at restaurants.

All laws are perfect, always have been and thus they should never change.

majic12 12 years, 8 months ago

Oh yeah --- keep telling the kids that pot is dangerous. That way they'll be SURE to believe you about coke, meth, and the whole cornucopia of truly dangerous illegal drugs.

All this hoo-hah about a harmless weed in a state that doesn't even bother to inspect the motor vehicles on its highways and insists on teaching superstitious nonsense in its schools...

laughingatallofu 12 years, 8 months ago


Jaywalking is also illegal. Why not make that a high priority? People could get KILLED by jaywalking!

dbackbone 12 years, 8 months ago

Finally some common sense from Boog when it comes to his ox potentially being gored.

hurlehey 12 years, 8 months ago

This all sounds good, but everyone knows the REAL way to combat unfair drug laws; HONK FOR HEMP!

trueninetiesgirl 12 years, 8 months ago

you must not go down town much because you can be walking on mass and someone will walk past you getting high on pot. i have seen this just a few days ago.....honk for hemp

sonny 12 years, 8 months ago

it's about time lawrence started to serve and protect instead of arrest and convict. We do have a serious problem on our hands with other drugs. It's a shame the LPD treats a pot possetion charge the same as a cocaine possion charge. But you know the city needs a even blance to keep property taxes at the right level, so the right people can see the cash. I personally don't get high but I have no propblem with pot being legalized, the only thing that would put a sour note is the goverment being paid off of that too!! greedy crabs!! HONK FOR HEMP!!!!!!

olmsted78 12 years, 8 months ago

Did many of you actually read the article? It's not about legalizing marijuana. It's about making it a city ordinance rather than a district one. This would save money and time, but still allow for the drug to be illegal-- Just read, that's all.

Ragingbear 12 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, and like gimme some nachos, and a whole lot of water. Let's call the PIZZA DUDE!

Hell, the cops here smoke it, most of them just confiscate it for themselves anyways. I even caught an on-duty cop smoking a joint during a break. So not much will change. Now pass over that donut.

missmagoo 12 years, 8 months ago

'which formed in May and has an office at 941 Ky'

as in kentucky KY? lol

go hemp

onehotmomma 12 years, 8 months ago

Wow, talk about jumping. No where in the article did it say a darn word about legalizing pot. Read the article, they want to move the FIRST TIME possession charge to city court, the SECOND TIME possession charge is still a felony and prosecuted in the District Court.

It also stated small amounts versus dealing. They still need to decide what a small amount is.

Marijuana has been an issue for years. Keep educating your children on the use of any sort of drug, alcohol, cigarrettes, prescription drugs, inhalants (sp).

Janet Lowther 12 years, 8 months ago

Back before the so-called "drugs of abuse" were made illegal, there was very little crime associated with them.

Virtually all drug connected crime derives from it's illegality: The junkie or crack head burgling houses to support his habit comes as a result of the crime premium in the product's price.

License and regulate drugs and there will be space in the prisons for real criminals: Burglars, robbers, fraudsters, rapists. Do you realize that a burglar can be caught and convicted repeatedly over a period of years and never get prison time?

sonny 12 years, 8 months ago

I know the the articale was not about legalizing pot, that just happened to be my personal opinion I threw in thier. We should worry more about these issues than being critical of each other.

losingliberty 12 years, 8 months ago

The only way it becomes a gateway drug is because of criminalization. The dealer usually gets his clients to try harder drugs in hopes of making more profit.

How many crimes are committed by those that are drunk compared to those that are high?

Jamesaust 12 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm...."I don't want to see a young person denied the opportunity to go to college because they made a mistake." We currently have two U.S. Senators and two U.S. Representatives with whom to advocate this point of view. It is not the place of the City to make make policy about federal programs.

Here's an idea - agree to not prosecute the drug case if the alleged "ordinance-breaker" joins the military. Mask dishonor with honor!

DPFKS 12 years, 8 months ago

1 the penalty remains the same, just a different court room--the DA thinks it's OK--he has more important cases since people keep stealing and hurting each other

2 if your child is arrested for a small amount of pot, they can't get a student loan for college--would that be ok with you?

not everyone is on the straight and narrow when they are young. Pres. Bush is on record as admitting he smoked it--should he not be President?

3 Even Winfield and Leavenworth, KS have

city ordinances like this, it's not a hippee thing, it's the right thing to do with our tax dollars

3 100% of people in rehab started with milk

BUCK9 12 years, 8 months ago

Just a little FYI. In the state of California simple possession is .028 grams and below. Maybe, you could start with this figure and run it by the local law enforcement and even the local DEA for their input so that all local law enforcement are on the same page. And, if it saves the tax payers money it's always a win win situation.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 8 months ago

So Ms. Green doesn't want to see kids lose out on a college education because they made a mistake(getting busted with pot)? If you are on financial aid, you should know that ahead of time and decide not to do drugs. That's a little thing that we USED TO call "responsibility" in this country.

jrlii: What exactly is "burgling"? I have heard of "burglarizing", but never "burgling". Is it related to McDonald's hamburglar?

As far as streamlining the judicial process for first-time pot offenders goes, I'm all for it. Again, those people that say "pot never killed anyone" need to open their eyes. The majority of pot does not come from little Billy growing it in his closet. It gets imported in massive shipments by drug mules. Many of these mules would kill to avoid getting caught. The product they are carrying usually comes from large drug cartels outside of the U.S. which, in turn, engage in selling other "hard" drugs, murder, extortion, etc. All you are doing is financing their ability to do so.

DPFKS 12 years, 8 months ago

Ok, if you get a DUI (or 6) you don't lose aid, if you rape or steal you don't lose aid--so why lose aid over drugs?

(I personally think it's because the drug war is racist and white northern politicians, i.e., Rep Souder (R-IN) can seem to be doing something about drugs by passing these laws)

How many times do you need to be punished for a misdemeanor?

Many many organizations see this law as it is, a tool of politicians who don't know what to do about drugs.

Here are a FEW organizations supporting the repeal of the HEA drug provision: KNEA, League of Women Voters, NAACP, Episcopal Church, Methodists, Unitarians, Church of Christ, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Presbyterian Church (USA), Religious Society of Friends, National Council for Higher Education.

The following states have introduced bills to reinstate aid to students, Rhode Island Action, Arizona, Maine, Oregon, Minnesota

See the entire list of supporters:

pylon25 12 years, 8 months ago

I agree that what the city is trying to do is reduce the case load in the district courts by moving the cases to the municipal court. I disagree completely with the idea that we should reduce prosecution in the matter. To the individual who said that its rediculous that the police enforce pot laws like they enforce cocaine and crack laws, are you serious? It's not like your breaking the law less by using/possesing/selling pot than doing the same with cocaine/crack. Thats like saying that i was only going 1 mph over the speed limit so thats not as bad as going 5, 10, or 20 over. Its still breaking the law plain and simple. As for the idea that by prosecuting it in city court to "protect" the college students financial aid is absurd and insulting to those of us who stay clean. That should have no bearing in the decision to move it to city. That decision should be soley based on the need to reduce case loads and streamline the prosecution of individuals who choose to break the law. Marijuanna is still illegal and decriminalizing it is rediculous. Go to Amsterdam if you want to smoke up damn hippies.

onehotmomma 12 years, 8 months ago

DPFKS - I agree. Make the punishment tough because there is not one adult who ever made such a stupid mistake. That's right, my generation just DIDN'T GET CAUGHT. That makes it all ok.

majic12 12 years, 8 months ago

Most of the weed sold in America is grown in America --- it is, in fact, our #1 cash crop. It is too bulky to be imported. The imports are cocaine, heroin, and MDMA.

Not only have researchers failed to find any harm beyond that incurred by inhaling combusted vegetable matter, it is the ONLY substance known to arouse the appetite, the best anti-nausea drug available (ask any oncologist), it relieves the suffering associated with Multiple Sclerosis, and is the only effective preventative for glaucoma-induced blindness. It seems to show great promise in the area of anger management.

The non-medicinal, non-recreational uses of industrial-grade hemp could fill a book. Henry Ford built a car out of the stuff that ran on hemp oil, which he predicted would replace gasoline. Our Constitution is written on hemp. George Washington grew it, and noted in his journal that he seperated the male and female plants, which means he was smoking it, citizens.

Young people shouldn't be using intoxicants of any kind for the very good reason that they aren't even familiar with normal adult consciousness yet, but lying to them about a harmless herb doesn't do anybody any good, and in fact does a great deal of harm.

Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 8 months ago

majic: You are right, many of our forefathers dealt with hemp/hemp products and probably even smoked marijuana. I have no problem with using hemp for things like paper, rope, oil, etc. The problem with your analogy of ol' GW smoking pot is that the pot they smoked back then was about 50 times less...effective than the pot today. Heck, the THC content in today's pot is way more than what the hippies smoked at woodstock. And yes, smoking weed is harmful - one joint is about the equivalent of smoking four or five cigarettes to your lungs. It also causes lung cancer.

laughingatallofu 12 years, 8 months ago

Oh, H_k_P, gimme a break. Reading your postings is going to give me EYE cancer.

Your thoughts are eminating from the wrong part of your anatomy. Sorry to have to put it to you that way.

BTW, I have never smoked pot or have tried any other illegal drug. Never will. But, until this city, county, state, country gets its priorities straight, assailing those who use or advocate the use of drugs like pot is pointless. If you want to make an impact, let's raid all of the dwellings in Lawrence and get rid of all of the alcohol that is freely available to children.

Nancy Reagan was "JUST PLAIN WRONG". The "Just Say No" campaign was an utter failure.

Oy, Kansas certainly is the place that "time forgot"!

olmsted78 12 years, 8 months ago

Many of these aforemetioned examples really seem kind of irrelevant to this particular issue. Some don't. Apparently closed-minded thinking and stereotyping are in abundance. The issue seems to me, that the current system allows for marijuana to get in the way of issues more deserving of the valuable time and money. Currently marijuana prosecution seems to hold the same weight as many other things that deserve more attention. The heart of this proposal seems logical, nothing less, nothing more. Over time, if it there is some kind of overriding negative consequence that derives from such enactment of a proposal like this, then by all means the law can be reformed again. I guess the naysayers can just kick back and prepare for the pandamonium that will surely ensue....

joemite 12 years, 8 months ago

The fact is that some 34% of Americans have admitted to trying marijuana at least once. Think about it -- that's 1 in 3 people in this country who have tried pot. I think another stat (I don't have the figures in front of me) says that around 10% of adults use marijuana regularly. So how many users is that on any given city block in this city/state/county? Your neighbors smoke pot: its a statistical inevitability (or there's a good chance that YOU smoke pot already). It's everywhere. I think anyone opposed to loosening pot laws is either 1) incrediably naive or 2) has an agenda that would be hurt by liberalization of marijuana laws.

joemite 12 years, 8 months ago

I appolgize for the double post, but I just read a comment about the THC content in today's marijuana. There is NO DATA to support the claim that pot is stronger now than 30 years ago. Hong_Kong_Phooey says that pot from the 60's was "50 times less...effective than the pot today." So if pot back then was 2% THC (which is practically ditch weed), pot today would be 100% THC. That is impossible. Get your facts straight before you make such idiotic claims.

Even if it is true that the average THC level has gone up in the past couple of decades, it really doesn't help the prohibitionists. Your body can only hand so much THC. Really, high-potency pot causes the user to smoke LESS, which ultimately saves the lungs since a smaller amount needs to be inhaled to achieve the desired affects.

Ms_D_mocrat 12 years, 8 months ago

Great idea! Long overdue! Another progressive idea: if Im low on cash, can I pay my parking tickets with some pot?

dhawk 12 years, 8 months ago

(( To the individual who said that its rediculous that the police enforce pot laws like they enforce cocaine and crack laws, are you serious? It's not like your breaking the law less by using/possesing/selling pot than doing the same with cocaine/crack. Thats like saying that i was only going 1 mph over the speed limit so thats not as bad as going 5, 10, or 20 over. Its still breaking the law plain and simple. ))

You think going 1 mph over the limit is just as bad as going 20 mph over the limit? And you think they bring the same punishment?

I bet you have gone 1 mph over the limit, you lousy stinking criminal! I don't feel safe knowing you are loose on the streets!

Harry_Manback 12 years, 8 months ago

I think it would be great if they made it a municipal matter because of the whole financial aid thing. I'm a college student, and I have friends who have had to go to community colleges because they couldn't afford to attend a 4 year school. This is because they were denied financial aid as a result of marijuana arrests when they were teenagers.

Possessing marijuana is against the law, and although I support legalizing it, I still believe criminals should be punished. However, the punishment shouldn't deny someone the opportunity to attend college and better their life.

LawrenceMommy 12 years, 8 months ago

The whole "gateway drug" thing bugs the crap out of me. That so-called fact is based on studies done on current hard drug users and, guess what! Most of them smoked pot years ago. They used that to determine a cause-and-effect in a very unscientific manner. Like someone else said, they all drank alcohol, they all smoked cigarettes, they all drank MILK!

I was a typical teenager and I tried pot. I don't smoke it now, although I know a ton of people who do. Not one of them has ever (nor will ever) try a harder drug because they can kill you the first time and they're just too scary. I don't, personally have a problem with pot...except the illegality. You shouldn't smoke and drive, just like with alcohol, but otherwise it's just a little more dangerous than cigarettes. It can cause lung cancer, but that's about it. Alcohol is more dangerous, as are aspirin and tylenol. You can't even overdose on isn't a dangerous drug.

A big argument seems to be, "But it's illegal so it's wrong". I agree with that argument if your German or French, for instance. Countries like that tend to roll over and wait until someone changes a stupid law. In the United States we do what we think is right and let the law catch up. That's part of being shooting off fireworks on the 4th of July, regardless of what the law says, because it's just the right thing to do.

All of that is moot, though, because the whole point of the ordinance is not to decriminalize the drug, but to move the prosecution of first-time personal-use offenders to municipal court. The punishments are the same...same fines, same jail time. But the court costs drop dramatically. It's just common sense.

herb4life 12 years, 8 months ago

I can't even believe this is an issue, but I can believe that people are getting so angry. Why get angry? Because these people were brainwashed into thinking and believing all sorts of things about drugs without ever looking at the subject in a resonable manner and doing a little personal research. So let me pose a question: Do you believe everything that you are told, especially by the government? Those people probably just got the memo that we never found any WMDs in Iraq. Stop being naive and let people have some damn personal choice about a plant that grows naturally in the ditches of this state.

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