KC NORML Successfully Decriminalized Marijuana in Kansas City

Ballot initiative run by local group passes 71 to 29 to end arrests for possession of marijuana

Kansas City, MO – In a blowout victory for sensible criminal justice policy, the voters of Kansas City, Missouri have decided to approve Question 5 and decriminalize marijuana to direct their law enforcement officers to no longer target citizens for possession of the plant and would replace current criminal penalties with just a civil fine.

The measure will amend local laws regarding the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor, previously punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine — with no arrest made or criminal record imposed.

“We could not be more excited about the positive impact passing Question 5 will bring to the communities of Kansas City. We fought long and hard for this result and could not have done it without the support of our volunteers,” said Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of KC NORML. “The era of reefer madness in Kansas City has come to an end and no longer will otherwise law abiding citizens be targeted or arrested for the mere possession of marijuana.”

This is yet another victory in the march to end the criminalization of marijuana in the United States.

“The passage of this initiative is not just a victory for the people of Kansas City, but for the democratic process,” said Erik Altieri National NORML’s Executive Director, “When concerned citizens stand up, stand together, and fight back against unjust laws, we will win. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to end our nation’s war on marijuana consumers and politicians across the country should take heed of the message voters sent in Missouri: if you don’t reform our marijuana laws through the legislature, we the people will do it for you.”

Nationally, more than 600,000 people a year are arrested for simple marijuana possession alone. These arrests are disproportionately targeted, the ACLU found that the racial disparity in marijuana charges were levied against people over color, by nearly 4 to 1.

“Kansas City now joins the ranks of dozens of cities and states throughout the country that have ended the practice of arresting marijuana consumers,” said Kevin Mahmalji, outreach coordinator for NORML. “We at NORML are incredibly proud of the efforts of Jamie Kacz and her team at KC NORML and thank the voters of Kansas City for bringing a new era of sanity their law enforcement priorities and the overarching movement to end the prohibition of marijuana.”

Kansas City now joins a growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level. Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Tampa, Orlando, Milwaukee, Monona, Toledo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several others have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

For more information, visit http://www.normlkc.org/ or http://norml.org/ 



NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.

24 thoughts

  1. So it is my understanding police/law decisions like KC question 5 can help guide the surrounding towns/suburbs.
    So my question is, does this effect “Kansas city” boundaries ONLY or what about the suburbs?
    Must it be on my local ballot?

    I live with epilepsy, but can’t afford to live in fancy downtown (not sure i want to either).

    It seems almost impossible, to get the small communities on board… Plz reply

    1. Go to Google and look up “Kansas City, MO” and see the red portion of the map on google maps that is outlined. THAT, is Kansas City, MO, which includes a LOT more than just the downtown region. It stretches pretty far south…farther than you’d imagine. Check it out.

    2. Yeah, local suburbs need to vote on this separately. You won’t be able to carry 33g in liberty and be able to use the KC laws. They’re separate.

    3. I believe this only applies to the city, as they are the only ones that voted for it and the suburbs are separate entities with separate governments. Cost of living is rising in the city, but there seems to be affordable housing outside of downtown if you’re willing to look east of Troost or further south. A friend of mine really likes living in South Waldo. If that isn’t an option, there is a CBD store downtown and a new one in Brookside where you can purchase nonpsychoactive CBD oil (legal statewide in Missouri) which may be helpful with your epilepsy. I’m not sure whether a prescription is required, so you may want to do additional research before you go.


      1. North of the river is nice too. Portions of Kansas City stretch almost to Smithville.

  2. I think this complicates things for surrounding law enforcement. if a kc resident strays into independence and gets pulled over and is found in possession they go to Jail. if an independence resident gets pulled over in kc they get a ticket. I don’t smoke it. but know a few that do. unless you are careful of where you are you can get in trouble. this should have been a statewide measure not a local thing. when laws are handled one community \ municipality at a time it complicates things for law enforcement and the citizens.

  3. Can anyone clarify for me?

    Locals keep saying it doesn’t go far enough and will still show on your record as a drug conviction. However this is saying the opposite. How can I be certain which is correct?

    [Paul Armentano responds: Read the language of the ordinance. It makes local possession a non-criminal violation: no arrest, no criminal record. Also, aside from exigent circumstances, a local prosecutor may not refer the matter to a prosecutor outside of the municipality: http://www.normlkc.org/index_htm_files/Question5.pdf%5D

    1. Of course it doesn’t go far enough because people should not be punished at all for using or having marijuana and we should be enjoying the fruits of taxation to pay for some of that shiny new infrastructure.

      Anyway, I had heard people say the same thing but looking into it myself, I think it is a big step in the right direction. If I’m honest, to some degree I think there was a disinformation campaign to get people to feel that it was not coming out to vote for. This article presents both sides of the argument, but the jist is:

      Prosecutors warn that if you were cited, 1. it could prevent a student cited under the ordinance from being able to obtain federal financial aid, 2. it could show up on some background checks (not as a legal disqualification, but could result in an employer choosing another candidate), 3. the removal of jail time as a punishment means that poor people who cannot afford a lawyer will no longer be eligible for free legal aid (who could negotiate to keep the citation off of their record).

      On the other side, a lawyer who helped draft Columbia’s decriminalization law explained that a citation would be a city violation that might show up in some public records, but he doesn’t believe it makes much of a difference. The law re: federal financial aid is vague but he and most universities seem to agree that it applies to Federal and State drug charges, not city ordinances.

      The Prosecutor says that if you are cited and concerned about having a record, you should get a lawyer as they would likely be able to negotiate with the prosecution to prevent it from appearing.


      1. Good advice B.

        To that I would add that any step forward, no matter how small or compromising, is a step in the right direction. The most important priority we have in state and local legislation is to keep people out of jail so they can VOTE and CALL their city, state and federal legislators to improve marijuana policy.

        Also, if you are pulled over and/or searched without consent or a warrant make sure you are familiar with a Motion to Supress Evidence; Example:


  4. what is the law for people between the age of 18-21? will i be arrested for having it if im in that age range?

    1. Yes. Where the laws are changing, one thing is consistent, the age of cut-off is 21, persons under the age of 21, but older than 18 are prohibited. In some cases, it can be worse in that age range because you are no longer a minor and will be charged as an adult.

  5. Just imagine what kind of infrastructure the city would have if they focused less on a harmless plant and more on repairing the horrible roads in KC. We might even have high speed trains crisscrossing the country if government focused less on pot and more on rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.

  6. Good on you, Kansas City! I always thought that Missouri would be one of the last to update its laws (along with Texas), but so far this year I have to say, I’m impressed and very pleased with how things have been proceeding not only in these relatively red states but in the nation as a whole! People may say it’s not enough, but every state that legalized, started with a measure to decriminalize! It’s a step in the right direction, and a foot through the door of true democratic progress!

  7. After they give you a ticket do they take your herb?

    [Paul Armentano responds: Yes. Under decriminalization, cannabis possession is no longer criminal but cannabis itself remains contraband.]

  8. Bet Cha Vern Miller, if anyone fermember’s him for his, “Bring Em In Dead Or Alive”, Stance on Everything. Even Kansas Killer, Old Vern’s Head Must be Ah Spinnen. Yea We Be Dopen Up!

  9. This is fantastic news. We are advocating for legality but also trying to educate consumers that CBD is an option for people who do not want to get high. Plus with CBD being legal in all 50 states makes it’s a win for many consumers looking for alternatives. The more people writing articles like this one the better. Thank you!

  10. Marijuana sanity in Missouri?


    I could not believe how good the Missouri marijuana “bill” was that I ran across last year. For starters it was not a bill. It was a Constitutional amendment. H’mmm I thought. Finally some people that are on the right track, as I have been very critical of so called “legalization” in other states. As far as I can see, legalization, as in everything that the psychopaths in the legislature do, was first of all a scheme to make the state, and the friends of the legislature, a lot of money off of the backs of the citizens. When in fact they are supposed to be protecting those citizens rights, not economically exploiting them……


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