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Kansas City mayor wants to stop penalizing marijuana possession

Mayor Quinton Lucas, then a mayoral candidate, speaks at a campaign event in Kansas City on May 19, 2019.
Mayor Quinton Lucas, then a mayoral candidate, speaks at a campaign event in Kansas City on May 19, 2019.CHRISTOPHER SMITH/NYT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, is backing an ordinance that would strike possession of marijuana from the municipal code, a move that would eliminate even fines for those who possess marijuana.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a news release Thursday that he would introduce the ordinance with all four Black members of the City Council. Lucas said eliminating laws that disproportionately affect Black people can help “improve police-community relations,” the Kansas City Star reported.

Missourians voted in 2018 to legalize medical marijuana, but recreational use of the drug remains illegal. In Kansas City, voters in 2017 decided to reduce the penalties for possession to a $25 fine.

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Although Black and white people have comparable rates of usage, Black people are 3.6 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession of marijuana, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The news release described the move as one of many taken by Lucas and the City Council to create a “more equitable community.” Earlier this year, the mayor’s office launched a pardon program for past nonviolent, minor municipal marijuana offenses.