Archive for Friday, June 2, 2006

Marijuana cases make way through city court

Jury still out on effectiveness of new law

June 2, 2006


The city of Lawrence is now in the business of prosecuting marijuana cases.

But a key supporter of the new law that allows people accused of first-time marijuana possession to be charged in the city's Municipal Court rather than the state's District Court system said it was too soon to tell if the law was working as intended.

"I don't think we have enough data right now to draw any conclusions," said Laura Green, executive director of the Lawrence-based Drug Policy Forum of Kansas. "We'll probably need about six months to know whether it is working well."

Municipal Court has processed 17 misdemeanor marijuana cases since early April when the new ordinance took effect. Only three cases have been resolved, with all three people pleading guilty.

Each was given a $200 fine, plus $42 in court costs, and ordered to undergo a drug evaluation that could cost about $100. Two of the three also were made to pay a $400 laboratory fee to cover costs of testing the drugs.

But City Prosecutor Jerry Little said the drug testing fee wouldn't be common under the Municipal Court system. He said those two cases had started in the District Court system and were transferred to the Municipal Court system.

Little said it was common practice for nearly all marijuana cases in District Court to be subjected to laboratory tests. Municipal Court will rely more on field tests, Little said.

The remaining 14 cases have not yet worked their way through the system. Many of those charged may be eligible for diversion agreements if they don't have a prior record, Little said.

He said he thought the system, thus far, was working well.

"We haven't seen huge volumes in the number of cases coming through," Little said. "It has been about what we have expected."

City commissioners in March approved the new ordinance after debating whether the law should include a minimum fine for violators. Ultimately, commissioners settled on a $200 minimum fine. The state law, which is used in district court, has no minimum fine but is left to the judge's discretion.

But Little said he suspected the Municipal Court system would end up resulting in fewer costs for violators because many Municipal Court cases will not have the $400 laboratory fee. Court costs in Municipal Court also are less than in District Court - $42 compared with $117.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Charles Branson was out of the office Thursday and unavailable to comment on whether the new system had freed up time for his office to pursue other matters.

Green opposed the $200 minimum fine but said the new city ordinance still could be valuable because a conviction in Municipal Court would not trigger a federal provision that could cause students to lose federal financial aid.

The new city law only allows first-time violators of marijuana law to be prosecuted in Municipal Court. Repeat offenders still must be prosecuted in District Court. First-time offenders could face prosecution in District Court if there are other circumstances or charges that warrant it.


lunacydetector 12 years ago

please correct me if i'm wrong but we won't know if this will work until the habitual offenders reveal themselves by getting arrested a few times -paying their fines, then on their (is it only their third arrest?) getting the automatic felony sentence -then we'll know it works real good.

xenophonschild 12 years ago

Occasionally, there is something to be said for "the good ol' days," when blowing a doobie, even in public, was unremarkable.

KsTwister 12 years ago

How money orientated Lawrence laws have become.

monkeyhawk 12 years ago

I actually like the new arrangement.

I believe the only way to survive the remaining terms of the progressives is to do so in an alternative state of reality. It is also easier to accept the loss of our freedoms is if we are really, really stoned. (One would also be a lot more receptive to the liberal point of view being taught on the hill if a doob is toked before class.)

Doug Harvey 12 years ago

Why pot is illegal and Everclear is not is one of the great hypocrisies of the "conservative" mind. And I believe the more you drink, the more sense right-wingers make. As Randi Rhodes (Air America Radio personality) famously said, "10% of Americans think that Bush is doing a great job . . . which is proof that 10% of Americans are drunk by noon."

jayhawks71 12 years ago

Marijuana is illlegal because of racism (against Mexicans); (cocaine became illegal similarly, against African-Americans). Alcohol was already widely used in America at the time when cocaine was discovered/developed and when both were introduced into the U.S; even with prohibition, alcohol was simply consumed in private. With marijuana, Mexicans provided the Southwest with cheap labor in a post-Depression America. Their "habit" became the target of state and federal government. The Marijuana Tax act of 1937, championed by Harry Anslinger, the first "drug czar" was passed largely on false claims about the influence of marijuana on the human nervous system. It was easier to stamp out something "new" practiced by a minority than something pervasive throughout all of society.

So the lesson might be: if one wants to make Everclear illegal, associate it with an ethnic minority group... it worked 70 years ago!

westcoastmama 12 years ago

the first marijuana law was passed in 1619 in Jamestown Colony, Virginia requiring farmers to grow hemp.

GardenMomma 12 years ago

Marijuana is illegal because of big business NOT because of racial issues.

DuPont (way back in the day) was making things in direct competition with all the items that can be made from hemp - rope, clothing, money, etc. Yes, our nation's money was once printed on hemp paper. Big business lobbyed against the growing of marijuana and obviously won. Did you know that in the 19th century it was illegal to NOT grow hemp?

Fatty_McButterpants 12 years ago

We can always count on "jayhawk71" to provide the racist conspiracy theory, and "macon47" to be just plain wrong.

jayhawk71, do you recall a little thing called "prohibition"? Allow me to refresh your memory. Alcoholic drinks were outlawed by Congress. In fact, Kansas was practically the birthplace of it (the real beginning of Kansas going from a progressive state to a conservative state). Anyway, the vast majority of Americans threw a hissyfit and, after America's seedy underworld had profited enough, the law/amendment was repealed. Maybe if more Americans were potheads then the law against it would be repealed. Until then, Method Man and Tommy Chong will have to stand as the most vocal proponents for its' legalization.

satchel 12 years ago

Jayhawk71, where in the world do you get your racist ideas? They are insane.. Are you a student at KU? Wait, no.. you must be a professor there.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 12 years ago

Yes, it's a money-maker for the city. But I'd rather have druggies paying fines, than see in increase in my taxes.

xenophonschild 12 years ago

I'd like to see it mandated that every elected official, every appointee to high office, was required to toke up every day, preferably in the morning before they assume their duties.

There would soon be no labels - conservative, liberal - or lethal ideologies. One can always dream.

bankboy119 12 years ago

scene, how many hippies have cancer from MJ?

westcoastmama 12 years ago

Bankboy- how can you pin cancer on anything? EVERY THING can cause cancer, and NOTHING can cause it. my Grandpa live to be 92, smoked heavily since he was 12.

My mom died of uterine cancer and I never saw her put a ciggarette in there in my life.

What I don't understand is how come it's my body and i can do what I want with it, have total control over it when it comes to killing another human being growing inside it ..but... I can't fill it full of cannibis smoke.

GardenMomma 12 years ago

Q: "Why is tobacco, which kills 440,000 people a year (, legal, while marijuana, which has not a single death that can be attributed to it, is illegal?"

A: Big business and politics.

staff04 12 years ago

"Maybe if more Americans were potheads then the law against it would be repealed. Until then, Method Man and Tommy Chong will have to stand as the most vocal proponents for its' legalization."

I can't back this up with anything, but I think about a year ago I heard about a survey where 28% of americans aged 25-35 admitted to having smoked marijuana recreationally within the last year. That does seem like a helluva high number considering the slim number who are really willing to be active and support reform of the law.

Laura Green is very intelligent and well educated on the issue. A spokesperson doesn't have to be famous. Just because Charles Heston is your president doesn't make what he says anymore valid than what Laura Green has to say.

Pretty damn funny that her last name is Green though...

bunnyhawk 12 years ago

You gotta love a country in which elected representatives perpetuate the 'right to bear arms' while at the same time spending VAST amounts of federal funds to save us all from a little mexican pot.

And that same federal government at work...........if you're caught with a 'personal' amount of herb in a federal park or forest area, your herb will be confiscated and you'll receive a ticket. The only thing you have to do is mail in a check or pay the ranger your $100.

Is that hypocricy or what?

How much of your day do you suppose you spend working to pay to keep all those dangerous potheads locked up in prison?

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 12 years ago

No, we need our guns when all these dopers are running around. It makes sense to me. Thank you, Lynn

jayhawks71 12 years ago

Fatty, well aware of prohibition, thanks for the reminder though. Yes, alcohol was prohibited. What did that lead to? Speakeasies and shine runners to name but two. You act as if a law stopped people from consuming alcohol! More fool you!

And yep, you are right, people (the majority) threw a hissyfit and it was ultimately repealed. And yes, perhaps if the majority had been behind a marijuana hissyfit, it would have been repealed. However, now we have a mindset of how awful marijuana is, its the scourge of society, but bit by by it is being decriminalized. Change is a slow process.

And sorry, racism had plenty to do with the illegalization of marjuana and cocaine.

i-tching - did you know that the brain actually had cannabinoid receptors. How odd eh?

scenbooster - its about hypocrisy.

compmd 12 years ago

how many doctors, lawyers, engineers, or pilots do you think smoke marijuana? there are some, but I would say that most would try to keep it separate from their work for fear of being arrested, or hurting someone. do you want a surgeon operating on you to have smoked up before coming into the OR? how about the engineer that signed off on the final design of the brake system in your new car? we have successfully become a society where nobody is accountable for their actions; legalizing marijuana is an extension of that.

xenophonschild 12 years ago


We are all accountable for our actions; the law is very clear - at least, for those of us not wealthy fundamentalist Christian conservative Republicans - on that point.

We wish to point out that marijuana is perhaps a positive herb, one that in only a few ways deserves the opprobrium you seem ready to heap on it. I agree that surgeons should not toke up before they operate, but I heartily recommend that they do so once they are finished. Marijuana is, and should be, a much more edifying recreational drug than alcohol.

compmd 12 years ago


I may have misspoke; I was typing on my cell phone while eating dinner. Thoughts don't always come out right when doing that.

I do agree with you that we are all accountable for our actions, however many lack the willingness to accept that responsibility, and there lies a serious problem.

What I was trying to say is that the conscious decision to enter into an altered state of mind could put others at unnecessary risk. Now, in the case of alcohol, our society seems to be okay with letting drunk drivers that kill people go to jail for significantly shorter length of time then someone who fires a gun into a crowd and kills someone. In both cases, a decision was consciously made to take part in an action that could cause grievous harm to others. So, why is the drunk driver somehow more acceptable? I worry that something analogous would happen with a drug like marijuana. A defense of diminished capacity by intoxication might be stronger in a case involving people like the doctors or engineers I mentioned earlier considering that the drug that led to their intoxication was perfectly legal.

For the record, I've never used drugs and don't intend to. I'm not explicitly stating that I have a problem with marijuana itself; I have a problem with the circumstances in which irresponsible use could easily lead to the injury or death of others. This is very similar to alcohol abuse. I just don't think that we need to compound that problem.

Mike Birch 12 years ago

It does seem to make life easier!

achase 12 years ago


So this means that marijuana obviously has no potential use for medication because of the differences between a rat and humans. In fact, it's not even worth researching so we'll just ignore all valid scientific forays into this arena because those smart folks in the government said it's illegal.

This is just my views on your statement.

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