WICHITA, Kansas – A petition to change Wichita’s marijuana laws is moving forward. A group called Marijuana Reform ICT is pushing to decriminalize possession in small amounts. They turned in around 4,500 signatures Wednesday in hopes of letting the voters decide.
Co-founder Esau Freeman says dozens of volunteers made the effort a success after the previous petition fell short by 40 verified signatures.
“We had a lot of people call after we failed the first and said, ‘hey, we really want to make this a success, and we had a great outpouring of volunteers,’” Freeman said.
“Their petition is frankly of naught, it has no effect whatsoever,” said State Representative Steve Brunk.
Brunk says he asked the Office of Revisor of Statues to review the petition. He says the state will enforce its marijuana laws.
“They can’t change the penalties to be any different than what the state dictates. While they have made a good effort at doing this to gather the signatures on the petition, quite honestly, they’ve wasted their time,” Brunk said.
However, Freeman says his group’s work has been well worth it.
“The people that pay taxes in this state are over the age of 21, and we’re not their subjects. We’re actually their employers and their bosses, and when we call them and tell them that we would like a law to change, we expect them to act in that matter rather than say they’re not going to do something or give us something because the power is in the hands of the people, and it would be smart for them to remember that,” Freeman said.
Rep. Brunk says the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the state in other challenges to changing local laws, and he says this issue could also be headed to the Supreme Court.
“That would be up to the state legislators on how much of the taxpayer money they want to spend to engage in a process like that,” Freeman said.
But before the Supreme Court can rule, the petition still needs to be approved by voters.
The measure will need at least 51 percent of the vote. Before that happens, the signatures need to be verified, and the issue needs to appear on the April ballot.