20-Year-Old Kansas Lawmaker Files Drug Decriminalization Bill

MJ moment

A 20-year-old Kansas lawmaker introduced a bill on Tuesday to broadly decriminalize drug possession in the state. Rep. Aaron Coleman (D), who defeated a seven-term incumbent in a Democratic primary last year, filed the legislation. He told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Wednesday that he was inspired by a voter-approved initiative in Oregon that ends the threat of jail time for simple drug possession. “That’s what got me into this,” he said. “But, you know, I’ve always really believed that drug use is a mental health problem and not a criminal one. It needs to be treated like that.” Under his proposal, possession of controlled substances for personal use would be considered a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. For people caught in possession of drugs other than marijuana, prosecutors would also refer them to mandatory treatment—and failure to comply could result in a misdemeanor conviction that carries up to five days in jail, a maximum $250 fine and six months of probation. The bill would also reduce penalties for manufacturing or distributing controlled substances, lowering the sentencing requirements for people convicted of such offenses. However, Coleman stressed that drug offenses beyond simple possession would still result in felony charges. That’s part of the messaging he intends to bring to the legislature as he attempts to persuade skeptical lawmakers about the need for reform. “It’s in no way legalizing manufacturing or distribution, they’re still going to be classified as a felony,” Coleman said. “What this is going to do is allow police to stop focusing on the small-time users and focus on the distributors and manufacturers of these drugs. This bill, if anything, is a gift to the police because allows them to focus on the true criminals and not just the end user.” This bill’s introduction…

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