Organizers are moving forward to decriminalize marijuana in Kansas City, Missouri.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' Kansas City branch is collecting signatures to get an initiative added to the November ballot.
Under the proposal, if someone is caught with less than 35 grams of marijuana, they would get a city ordinance violation with a maximum $25 fine. There would be no records and no arrests made. Current Missouri penalties for the same amount of marijuana include possible incarceration and fines up to $1000.
Jamie Kacz is the executive director of NORML KC. She says nearly a thousand people were arrested for marijuana possession in Kansas City in 2015. She says most of these are non-violent offenses for small amounts of marijuana, but they have a lasting affect on people.
“Those are people that this is going to follow them the rest of their lives, it’s going to be hardships on their family on the community,” Kacz says.
NORML KC will be required to turn in 1,708 valid signatures by August 25, but Kacz says they plan on gathering 2,300 signatures. They currently have about 800 signatures. So far, she says, people have been open minded about reforming marijuana laws.
"Kansas Citians are ready for a change," Kacz says.
With more and more states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, she says the climate is ripe for cannabis reform in the metro, and she feels confident that if the initiative makes it into the ballot, it will pass.
"The dominoes are slowly starting to fall and with this being a presidential election, more people are going to show up at the polls, so that's really going to help us too," she says.
Kacz says NORML KC is looking for more volunteers to help gather signatures before the August 25th deadline. If they collect enough signatures, the petition will come before the Kansas City Council for review.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and producer at KCUR. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.