Missouri: Kansas City Council Eliminates Local Penalties for Marijuana Possession Offenses

City council members in Kansas City, Missouri approved a municipal ordinance Thursday evening repealing all local penalties specific to activities involving the personal possession of marijuana.

The measure, approved by the council in a 9 to 4 vote, amends the city code so that marijuana possession is no longer a violation within the city limits.

Local lawmakers acknowledged that, historically, marijuana law enforcement activities were disproportionately targeted toward people of color. They resolved, “Future [city] resources should be focused on prevention, investigation, and prosecution of violent crime.”

The change in local law enforcement policy does not alter state law, nor does it prohibit county prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges for certain offenders.

“Councilman Brandon Ellington verbalized for the record that this [local policy change] does not prevent anyone in Kansas City, Missouri from being charged under state law, which defines the possession of marijuana of up to 10 grams for a first-time offender as a misdemeanor drug charge punishable by a $500 fine, with much steeper penalties for subsequent offenses,” representatives of NORML KC posted in a statement on Facebook.

Kansas City voters approved a municipal initiative in 2017 decriminalizing offenses involving the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana. This new legislation repeals that ordinance.

In 2018, the Jackson County prosecutor’s office announced that they would cease prosecuting minor marijuana possession cases.

Kansas City, Missouri is made up of four separate counties. NORML KC called on the prosecutors in Clay, Platte, and Cass counties to follow Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in pledging to not prosecute low-level, non-violent marijuana offenses.