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Prairie Village City Council discusses decriminalizing marijuana

Police chief cautions against removal from code
Recreational Marijuana
Posted at 5:18 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 18:18:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Prairie Village is the latest municipality in Kansas City area to consider decriminalizing marijuana.

The Prairie Village City Council Committee of the Whole furthered its discussion about marijuana laws at the city’s council meeting Tuesday. No votes were taken, but the issue will now be discussed in the city’s Diversity Committee.

A legal review of Kansas and Missouri pathways to decriminalization was provided to council members, noting that two options first presented in May would be most viable — remove marijuana possession from the uniform public offense code, or UPOC, or adopt language “suggesting that lower fines or penalties should be encouraged and presumed (without mandating such lower fines or penalties),” according to city documents.

“The City may have some ability to provide guidelines to the City Prosecutor as to the exercise of discretion in fixing diversion fees,” City Attorney David Waters said in a city document. “While the City should respect the concepts of prosecutorial discretion and separation of powers, current Kansas case law suggests that the City does have some room in this area in which it may work. We would defer to City staff and the City Prosecutor as to further practical issues that may arise should the City Council make enactments in this area.”

Police Chief Byron Roberson said if marijuana possession was removed from the UPOC, that would “severely” reduce officers’ discretion while on duty.

Roberson, who spent five years working undercover, also said that drug dealers today are different than 20 to 25 years ago. Now, they “deal in various drugs” and carry guns, he said.

“I definitively say this will not make our city safer,” Roberson said. “I think, in fact, it will make your city more attractive to drug dealers and drug users. I think it’s common sense if you are the only place in Johnson County that has such a rule, this would be an attractive place to come, because I’m not going to be harassed by the police coming in and out.”

Ward 6 Councilman Ian Graves said Tuesday that opting out of the UPOC “doesn’t necessarily absolve us of anything.”

“From a moral standpoint, I don’t know where that really moves us … (and) it does seem as though going through our system is more beneficial to the people who get caught up in enforcement of these rules, regardless of how I feel about them,” Graves said.