KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 16, 2020) – Last week, the Kansas City City Council voted to decriminalize marijuana possession and eliminate all penalties in the city despite federal prohibition.
Mayor Quinton Lucas (D), along with four members of the city council, filed the measure last month. The ordinance repeals a provision in the Kansas City Code of Ordinances setting criminal penalties for marijuana possession. Under the former law, possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana carried a $25 fine, and possession of more than 35 grams was punishable by a $500 fine. Under the new law, “Possession or control of marijuana is not a violation of the Code of Ordinances.”
The council approved the measure by a 9-4 vote.
“The City doesn’t need to be in the marijuana policing business—and we remain focused on helping open doors to new opportunities & empowering people to make a decent living,” Mayor Lucas said in a tweet.
Marijuana possession for non-medical use remains a criminal offense under Missouri state law, but the new ordinance will disincentivize enforcement efforts in Kansas City and likely change policing priorities. minimizing marijuana arrests and prosecutions.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Despite federal prohibition, Missouri legalized medical marijuana via ballot measure in 2018. Decriminalization of marijuana in Kansas City removes yet another layer of laws punishing the possession and use of marijuana in the state, but federal prohibition remains in effect. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Kansas City joins a growing number of states and localities increasingly ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice.
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019.
With 33 states including allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats.
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