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Group pushes to ease restrictions on marijuana August 24, 2005 - kansas.com
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - People caught with small amounts of pot would be prosecuted in municipal court instead of district court under a proposal that is supported by the mayor and the district attorney.
Pushing for the change is the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas, which formed in May.
Because Lawrence has no city ordinances covering marijuana, cases must be handled in district court instead of city court.
Laura Green, the group's executive director, said that is a problem, in part because students are disqualified from federal financial aid if they have a drug conviction in state or federal court.
Green said those convicted in municipal court do not lose eligibility for financial aid.
At Green's request, the city commission is expected to discuss the issue at its Sept. 6 meeting.
"We're not proposing legalization," Green said Tuesday. "I'm just asking them to consider making it part of the city code. ... Part of what I'm asking them to do is to make possession of marijuana a low priority. Don't seek it out. Don't go looking for it as if it's the Holy Grail."
Mayor Boog Highberger said he was generally supportive of the proposal.
"It wouldn't bar a student from getting financial aid," Highberger said. "That's appropriate because I think that would be a pretty harsh penalty for getting caught with a little pot."
District Attorney Charles Branson, whose office now handles all marijuana cases in Douglas County, estimated that the change would reduce his caseload by two or three cases per week.
"The district court system is here, in my opinion, for more serious cases," he said. "There's a lot of savings, I think, in being able to have a city court be able to do these things."
Highberger stressed that he was talking only about cases involving small amounts of marijuana for personal use, not cases involving drug dealers.