Wichita sets aside penalties for fentanyl test strips, small amounts of marijuana
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - The Wichita City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to exclude fentanyl test strips from its definition of paraphernalia and not prosecute possession of under 32 grams of marijuana.
Fentanyl test strips are classified as drug paraphernalia in Kansas, making them Illegal. Mayor Brandon Whipple said Wichita police don't arrest people for possessing the strips, putting into policy what's already in practice.
As for the marijuana, if someone possesses less than 32 grams, the city had a $50 file policy. Tuesday's vote dropped city prosecution of those lesser amounts. Those in possession can still be prosecuted in state or district court.
Council members Tuttle and Frye voted against the ordinance.
The Wichita City Council is set to discuss changes to its current policy involving prosecuting fentanyl test strips, marijuana possession and marijuana paraphernalia on Tuesday.
This comes after a workshop earlier this year to discuss the issue. Council members had the opportunity to review the proposed ordinance Friday, which includes options regarding both items.
“It always was a package deal when it comes to what is on the list for a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia,” Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple said.
Right now, fentanyl testing strips are considered drug paraphernalia in Kansas, which is illegal. If passed, this ordinance could change that in Wichita. The test strips can detect if drugs contain fentanyl. Sedgwick County is currently on track to exceed 300 deaths due to fentanyl overdoses this year.
“Currently, our police don't arrest people for fentanyl test strips, so this is putting into practice…or putting into policy what's already in practice,” Whipple said.
When it comes to prosecuting people caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana, or less than 32 grams, the city currently has a policy stating a fine of $50 and payment of all required court costs is appropriate for some individuals who are older than 21.
The Wichita City Council is receiving legal guidance when it comes to the proposed ordinance.
“If it were up to me, we wouldn't have substance use issues in the first place,” Ngoc Vuong with Safe Streets Wichita said. “We wouldn't have people misusing drugs or using illicit drugs, but that's just my personal opinion. It's not the reality.”
Vuong, a community mobilizer for Safe Streets, has been advocating to council members in support of fentanyl test strips. He said Tuesday’s discussion is a step in the right direction.
“It’s ultimately up to their decision,” he said. “There's so many other constituents, so many other perspectives, at play here.”