Archive for Monday, November 7, 2005

City Commission to consider marijuana possession fines

November 7, 2005


City commissioners are set to decide Tuesday how heavy the hand of the law should be in handing out fines related to a proposed city ordinance banning marijuana possession.

Commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will debate whether a new city ordinance should deviate from state law and set a minimum fine for first-time marijuana possession.

"I think it should be somewhat painful," said City Commissioner Sue Hack. "That is the tone of the communication I've heard from people, too. They're saying that it shouldn't just be a slap on the wrist."

Earlier this month, commissioners gave tentative approval to the idea of creating a new city ordinance that would allow first-time marijuana offenders to be tried in Municipal Court rather than Douglas County District Court. But they did not reach agreement on whether they should set a minimum fine for the offense.

Commissioners Mike Amyx and David Schauner both supported a fine, though Amyx proposed a $300 minimum and Schauner backed a fine more in the $50 range. Mayor Boog Highberger and Commissioner Mike Rundle said they believed the minimum fine should be up to the judge's discretion. The ordinance proposes a $2,500 maximum fine, which is the same as the state law used in District Court. Under state law, the city cannot lower the maximum fine. The state law has no minimum fine.

Laura Green, executive director of the Lawrence-based Kansas Drug Policy Forum, said she hoped commissioners would not create a minimum fine.


Here's a list of other Lawrence ordinances that have minimum fines that the judge must levy: ¢ minor in possession of alcohol: $300 ¢ possession of fake driver's license: $300 ¢ unlawful hosting: $300 ¢ driving under the influence: $500 ¢ cruelty to animal: $100 ¢ habitual violator of animal-at-large law: $100 ¢ stormwater pollution: $250 ¢ fire code violation: $100 ¢ noise ordinance: $50 ¢ traffic infraction: $60

"It would remove the ability of the judge to consider the entire person and all the circumstances," Green said.

Green brought forward the proposal of creating a new city law that would allow marijuana possession cases to be prosecuted in Municipal Court. She has argued that because Municipal Court cases generally move quicker than District Court cases, it will allow police officers and prosecutors to be more efficient. Municipal Court convictions also do not trigger a federal provision that can stop some students from receiving financial aid.

Green has gathered research that shows only three of the 50 largest cities in the state - Overland Park, Olathe and Garden City - have passed laws that impose harsher penalties than state law. Garden City has the largest fine - 96 hours in jail and a $500 fine.

City staff members also have gathered information that shows the city does have several laws on its books that impose minimum fines - ranging from $500 for a first offense driving under the influence to $50 for a noise violation.

Commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.


sweatpeagj 12 years, 7 months ago

You know what? I have to say that you are very narrow minded. It's not ok to smoke a bowl but let's allow the masses to drink themselves to death and take others if they decide to drive. Yup, smoke dope sure makes drinking look less dangerous doen't it? Normal weed consumption doesn't make people want to fight, get stupid, have unprotected sex. The worst thing that hapens is they want to relax, eat more and sleep. Isn't that awful?? I have witnessed plenty of illegal activities caused by a very legalized alcohol consumption and I tell you what...I would rather hang out with the ones who smoke a bowl and chill anyday.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

I'll bet there is one vote the Boog would be happy never to get if it means having to appeal to the fear and ignorance he displays here.

Sigalph 12 years, 7 months ago

People its pot, leave it alone. Oh and slavery used to be illegal, women and blacks could not vote legally, and yes at one point in time even alcohol was illegal, but that has all changed due to the type of government that we have in this great land. I four elected officials deem it appropriate to lower the punishment for pot I say lets support it!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

"God forbid we all think for ourselves."

There seems to be plenty of evidence that this is the case, especially among those who have regular conversations with Him.

Jamesaust 12 years, 7 months ago

"Laura Green, executive director of the Lawrence-based Kansas Drug Policy Forum [said], '[A minimum fine]' would remove the ability of the judge to consider the entire person and all the circumstances."

No, it wouldn't. A minimum fine is a finding by the lawmakers (here the City Commission) that the MOST POSITIVE consideration of "the entire person and all the circumstances" merits a $300 fine. Less sympathetic circumstances merit more - how much more to be decided by the judge.

monkeywrench1969 12 years, 7 months ago

The discretion comes from lawmakers creating a range of punishments and the judge using his descretion to impose a fine and punishment. THe lawmakers create a min and max...Boog should know this since he is an attorney...and the judge evaluates the person before them and decides how hefty the fine should be.

My concern would be if they set the bar too low...then people would be more careless in smoking the weed, get a quick conviction THAT DOES go toward a criminal record where the next arrest and conviction goes to District court anyway and is a felony which would disqualify students from federal loans anyway.

Also this won't help those who already have a previous conviction. They are already headed to district court the next time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

If a minimum fine is set, the law will be more stringent than the state law it would replace, since that law has no minimum fine-- thought I'd drop that in for those of you who didn't read the article.

OK, resume overreacting.

Jamesaust 12 years, 7 months ago

Actually, a $300 fine is NOT more stringent than the state law as the state law is a felony carrying a criminal record. The city court 'conviction' is significantly less severe.

Jeez, I've heard of having your cake and eating too. What next? The hippies demanding cocaine sprinkles on their marijuana-laced cake?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years, 7 months ago

You see no merit in treating this relatively minor crime (which many think shouldn't be a crime at all) less stringently. I disagree. The commissioners will decide which opinion(s) they agree with, maybe tonight. But if they make the choice to set no minimum fine, it isn't the result of drug-induced hysteria, or a favor to friends they expect might get busted.

Steve Jacob 12 years, 7 months ago

This is a bad law that will hurt pot smokers in the end. 1) Pot will be "decriminalized" 2) Kansas house/senate will not only pass laws in the state saying you can't pass this law 3) They will force the city to be tougher on the laws then before.

Come to think of it, it's amost like gay rights. Once gay marrige was becoming legal, the state made laws to make it worse for gays.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years, 7 months ago

This situation is most serious, indeed! Thank you, Lynn

Commenting has been disabled for this item.