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AG Schmidt statement on State v. Wichita marijuana decision

Release Date: Jan 22, 2016

TOPEKA - (January 22, 2016) - The Kansas Supreme Court today struck down a Wichita city ordinance that sought to amend penalties, enforcement authority and reporting procedures for offenses related to possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The Court held the ordinance, which was approved in April 2015 by local voters, to be void and unenforceable because the method of its enactment violated state law. Because the Court invalidated the ordinance on procedural grounds, it did not address whether a properly enacted ordinance would have been valid under state law.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who filed the lawsuit challenging the ordinance’s validity, issued the following statement in response to today’s decision:

“Today’s decision confirms what we have said all along - the Wichita marijuana ordinance is illegal and void. However, the narrow scope of the decision leaves for another day any judicial determination whether a properly enacted ordinance would nonetheless have been preempted by state law and thus invalid.

“I remain convinced current state law prevents cities from charting their own course on criminal justice policy and procedures in this way. The city disagrees. If this legal dispute is left for resolution in the courts, our state will learn the definitive answer only after more years of petitions, legal analysis, and court cases. And the confusion likely will not be limited to Wichita. The resulting uncertainty, drain on resources, and inevitable uneven patchwork of criminal law enforcement throughout the state would not, in my view, serve the public interest.

“Therefore, I ask the Legislature during this session to review the city’s assertion of inadequacies in current state preemption in this area. If those assertions trouble the Legislature, then the Legislature should make crystal clear its intent to have these law enforcement standards, policies and procedures uniform throughout the state. Perhaps that could avoid an inevitable next round of litigation. Whatever one’s views on the merits of current state policy related to marijuana, I think most Kansans agree it makes little sense for the basic rules for enforcing the criminal law to differ from city to city.”

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