Wichita group pushes for marijuana decriminalization vote

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WICHITA -- The elections may be months away, but Janice Bradley is already pounding the pavement.

No, she isn't running for office.

Bradley is getting people's signatures with one goal in mind: to end criminal penalties for the possession of marijuana. She's doing this on behalf of the Peace and Social Justice Center.

"Our focus has been against mass incarceration in the drug war, and we feel like these small, easy drug arrests of marijuana are driving the drug war, leading to incarceration of just too many people," she said.

Wednesday morning, Bradley presented the group's plans to the Sedgwick County Commission. Since April, the group been gathering signatures. They have nearly 60 percent of the 4,300 signatures required.

"We feel like even if it is something that the authorities decide to ignore -- which we hope they don't -- just the idea of people giving their voice on this and making their views known can help the political authorities to get in, step with the times and reform the cannabis law," Bradley said.

The Peace and Social Justice Center would like Wichita to reduce the crime of marijuana possession to only a $25 fine -- an idea resident Omar Lopez supports.
"With the end of the roach, if you have one of those in your ash tray, there you go, possession and that'll usually be a good jail sentencing or a big fine or both," he said.

Lopez said Kansas should move forward with legalizing marijuana altogether. Weed is legal -- in some form -- in 22 states.

"Colorado's already made millions of dollars just off marijuana," he said. "And really, crime rates really going down. There's not much people doing it in the streets, now that they can get it in the store."

The important thing, Bradley said, is to give voters a chance to decide what the city should do with marijuana.
"If our public officials are going to drag on this, no pun intended, we are going to do what we can to affect the change with people power," she said.

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