Residents of the largest city in Kansas decriminalized small amounts (32 grams or less) of marijuana yesterday. The vote to reduce the penalty to a $50 fine in Wichita won by a 54%-45% margin.
Considering that Kansas is a red state, this is major victory. State law treats a first-time marijuana arrest as a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of a year in jail and $2,500 fine. However, the new law will continue to treat a marijuana violation as a criminal infraction; stay clean for a year and it will be expunged.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Wichita's marijuana law conflicts with state law, and he promises to challenge it in court.
In the past, Wichita police have made nearly 2,000 pot arrests per year. The city with a population of 380,000 is the biggest by far in the Sunflower State. It now joins 19 other cities - such as Philadelphia and Chicago - that have decriminalized cannabis.
The campaign was led by Kansas for Change.