Editorials

Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith don’t agree on marijuana. Who’s right?

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith appear to be on a collision course over decriminalizing marijuana. Lucas is for it; Smith is against it.

Lucas should prevail.

In a Facebook post Friday, the mayor suggested Kansas City should remove any reference to marijuana from city ordinances. “We will just get out of the business” of restricting marijuana use or possession within the city’s limits, he wrote.

“Our municipal court resources for recovery and prosecution (and defense) can go to other areas,” he said.

The mayor’s proposal largely aligns with the aims of City Councilman Brandon Ellington, who wants to decriminalize city possession of less than 100 grams of pot. We’ve endorsed that plan.

The mayor has a better idea, though. His strategy would be a simpler way to accomplish the same goal.

Halting municipal marijuana violations would not mean the end of arrests and convictions for holding or using the substance. Marijuana cases could still be pursued by state prosecutors, and possession remains a federal crime.

The police chief and his officers should keep those facts in mind. In a recent blog post, Smith was sharply critical of efforts to legalize marijuana.

“Legalization is no panacea, and has in fact increased crime and drugged driving in the states where it has happened,” he wrote.

More disturbingly, the chief linked violent crime in our area with marijuana.”So far this year, 10 of our homicides have been directly motivated by marijuana,” he wrote.

He did not provide specifics. Smith wrote the blog post before the mayor released his statement, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But the murders he refers to were almost certainly linked to disputes over illegal marijuana — if the substance were legal, it’s likely violent crime over its possession would actually decline.

That’s the lesson of Prohibition. Alcohol is still a factor in violent crime, but few Kansas Citians are shot today over the act of buying and selling it.

The chief’s assertion that legal marijuana isn’t a panacea for reducing crime is correct. We also know marijuana charges are often used in cases when other criminal behavior is suspected.

Marijuana laws in Missouri, Kansas and the nation remain murky and contradictory. Those contradictions must be addressed.

But eliminating pot possession as a municipal violation would ease the burden on city resources without seriously elevating risk. Taking the violation off the city’s books is a good step.

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