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Lawrence commission favors reducing marijuana penalties

October 10, 2018

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners favor reducing the city’s penalties for marijuana possession, which are more stringent than state law requires.

The commissioners discussed the issue during a work session Tuesday after receiving a request from a Lawrence resident to consider lowering the penalties, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Currently, first-time offenders in Lawrence pay a minimum fine of $200 and must also pay for and undergo a drug evaluation. Both city ordinance and state law set a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 180 days. State law doesn’t require a minimum fine for first-time offenders or a mandatory drug evaluation.

The commission took no action, but commissioners say they support reducing the minimum fine, perhaps to $50, and changing the requirement for a mandatory drug evaluation.

The city’s current ordinance on penalties for marijuana possession was adopted in 2006.

“This is a conversation I think we’ve been needing to have for several years, I believe,” Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said. “And as we’ve heard, public opinion has changed, and we just need to do it and get it done and make the changes.”

First-time offenders in Lawrence typically must pay the minimum $200 fine, $63 court costs, $85 to $150 for a mandatory drug evaluation and additional costs if education or counseling is required. The person also generally receives a 90-day suspended jail sentence and six months of probation requiring court appearances monthly or every two months until all obligations are met. Possession of drug paraphernalia would bring more charges and fines. Being placed in diversion requires more costs.

Commissioner Matthew Herbert said he thinks the city changing its ordinance could send a message to state legislators that cities want lawmakers to enact.

“I think by taking actual action on a municipal level, we do a little something more than just sending a legislative statement,” Herbert said. “We demonstrate to our state the actions that we hope to see done. And I for one would like to be part of that change.”

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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