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Lawrence to consider lowering fines for marijuana possession

March 19, 2019
FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants are a few weeks away from harvest in the "Flower Room" at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. Lawrence, Kansas city leaders are considering whether to slash the city's penalties for possessing marijuana. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the City Commission will discuss Tuesday, March 19, 2019 whether to lower fines for marijuana possession, which currently amount to hundreds of dollars. Commissioners last month voiced support for a proposal to reduce the fine to $1 for first and second convictions of possessing 32 grams or less of marijuana. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials are considering a plan to slash the city’s penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, which can currently add up to hundreds of dollars.

The City Commission on Tuesday evening was set to discuss a draft ordinance to reduce the fine to $1 for first and second convictions of possessing 32 grams or less of marijuana, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Under the city’s existing policies, people charged with possession of marijuana have to pay a $200 fine. They could also face a minimum $200 fine for possessing paraphernalia, up to $150 for a drug evaluation and $63 in court costs.

Commissioners voiced support for reducing marijuana possession fines last month. Those convicted of marijuana possession would still have to pay $63 in court costs.

Mayor Lisa Larsen said people of color are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession compared to white residents.

A 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that black residents in Kansas are more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as white people, despite using marijuana at similar rates.

“I just think it’s so disproportionate that we need to do something to get back to something that’s reasonable and provides more equity to our justice system,” Larsen said. “That’s what this is about, it’s about justice.”

Assistant City Attorney Maria Garcia said altering the city’s fine for marijuana possession to $1 wouldn’t violate state law. She said the changes wouldn’t affect drug paraphernalia fines, which are part of a separate section of city code.

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