Opinion Columns & Blogs

Marijuana question should spur good debate, turnout

Mayor Carl Brewer’s final State of the City speech risked being overshadowed by the City Council’s 6-1 decision earlier Tuesday to ask voters on the April 7 ballot whether the penalty for first-time possession of marijuana should be lessened in Wichita. Passage might not bring the petitioners’ desired relief, because the proposed ordinance conflicts with state law. But the marijuana vote will allow for a worthy public debate about the fairness and efficacy of the status quo in Kansas, which makes possession of marijuana or paraphernalia punishable by a $2,500 fine and year in jail. As City Council member Janet Miller observed, lawmakers and all Kansans will know more after April 7 about where the state’s largest city stands on the issue. Having pot on the ballot also is sure to improve turnout – which is usually such a problem in spring elections that the Legislature is threatening to move them to the fall and make them partisan. – Rhonda Holman