While states and municipalities undoubtedly always take a step quicker than the federal branch when it comes to dismantling cannabis prohibition, it does not mean that the Feds are the only roadblocks for decriminalization or legalization efforts.
Sometimes local prohibitionists, who are often in cahoots with the Feds, use very questionable methods to make sure that changes do not happen. They regularly mount underhanded attacks on the process of justice along the way: when a cannabis-related petition was collecting signatures in Mississippi, local police were sent to intimidate campaigners, and when signatures were collected and submitted for an initiative in Nevada, state officials then declared some signatures invalid.
The same thing is taking place in Kansas right now, and their tactics have reached a new level of brazenness. And the prohibitionists have succeeded temporarily by voiding a law already passed at the polls with a majority. In April 2015, citizens of Wichita, a major city in Kansas, voted in a referendum to decriminalize first-time offense of marijuana possession under 32 grams, changing penalties from possible jail time to a fine.
The state government of Kansas, represented by Attorney General Derek Schmidt, was so incensed by the prospect of one city not incarcerating its citizens for having a little bit of cannabis that it took it to the courts asking for the new Wichita law to be quashed. Talk about sore losers, huh?
Their main argument, among others, was that the new city ordinance conflicted with Kansas law, but the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court took a cop-out route often employed by judges: they took the state government’s and prohibitionists’ side on a filing technicality (that the petition was not filed with the city clerk) rather than any substantial legal issue. So, according to the justices, the city of Wichita still has to arrest and jail cannabis users because the people who submitted the initiative for a vote did not follow proper paperwork. One organizer in Kansas commented on the prohibitionists’ misbegotten court victory, ““If the only way they can beat us is on a technicality, it really says something about their argument.”
While Mr. Schmidt and his fellow supporters of the status quo can revel in their win for the time being, soon voters will see their sleazy, anti-democratic ways as they are. Nevertheless, a simmering frustration is bubbling among the citizenry to penalize politicians and bureaucrats who work not for but against whom they should be serving. This, of course, requires hard-working activists, like the ones at Peace on Our Streets, to inform and mobilize people on the grassroots level.