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Municipal marijuana pardons will 'open' options for veterans

Posted at 10:45 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 23:47:21-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Less than two weeks after Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas' office announced it would begin the process of pardoning misdemeanor marijuana convictions, more than a dozen applications have come in.

And for homeless veterans, that move from Lucas could be a step toward getting back on their feet. Veterans Community Project (VCP) Director Josh Henges said that a municipal marijuana conviction can, at times, be the sole obstacle preventing a veteran who is homeless from moving forward.

Mayor Quinton Lucas speaks on pardoning marijuana convictions

"For marijuana to cause a vet to lose income, to lose access to their medication and to their doctor, it's really trivial but it can cause a really big ripple and with loss of income comes loss of housing and with loss of housing comes loss of dignity," Henges said.

Now, the VCP is working to help several of its veterans with paraphernalia charges, which he said represents an inability to live and work where they want.

"Because restrictions around what that charge brings to their job – so background checks in both housing and background checks in employment," Henges said. "Their options have become very limited. Their options open completely when this pardon goes through."

While the pardon is only at the municipal level and does not expunge a person's record, those at the VCP said it can help change the trajectory of a veteran’s life.

"I think what it really does, beyond legally, is it's telling them that they don't have to feel bad about feeling better," Henges said.

In Kansas City, Missouri, there were 266 marijuana convictions in 2017, 222 in 2018 and 115 through June 18, 2019, which is the last date for which the city has compiled data.

When a person applies either online or in person to have their conviction pardoned, the application will go through the mayor's office, which will conduct an internal review.

To submit an application for a pardon, visit kcmo.gov/mayoralpardon. Paper copies of the application will soon be made available at the Department of Parks and Rec and the Kansas City Public Library according to Lucas.