By Leilani Haywood
Tribune Reporter

The Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board (HEAB) has forwarded a proposed ordinance regulating marijuana for City Council consideration. The subcommittee on marijuana drafted the ordinance after Mayor Pro Tem Rob Binney assigned issue in November 2016 of responding to the possibility of legalization of marijuana by the State of Missouri. The Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative may appear on the November 6, 2018 state ballot.

The initiative which requires 170,000 valid signatures, would remove marijuana from the list of state’s controlled substances, legalize marijuana for personal and medical use, allow for the sale of marijuana as well as immediately release all prisoners incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana-related crimes. Two versions of the initiative have been filed with the Missouri Secretary of State. Each initiative has an estimated savings of $11 million but law enforcement costs could increase.

The proposed ordinance addresses the fact that City Council passed a resolution on June 16, 2016 in support of Lee’s Summit CARES mission of reducing marijuana-related problems. The City had also entered into cooperative agreements with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Jackson County COMBAT Drug Commission to address the use and abuse of controlled substances in the interests of public health and safety of the citizens of Lee’s Summit.

Dr. Stephen Salanski, chairman of the HEAB said based on extensive research the committee conducted on states that have legalized marijuana such as Colorado, the data has shown an increase in traffic fatalities, emergency room visits and hospitalizations. “In Colorado, the number of traffic fatalities more than doubled after the legalization of marijuana,” he said.

Dr. Ed Kraemer is also a chairman of the HEAB and he added that what drove the formation of the ordinance was the concern with marijuana use among youth. “I want to make it clear that the ordinance doesn’t address possession of marijuana,” he says. “That falls under state and federal laws. We just wanted to make clear the level of commercial activity we would allow and how we would regulate the commercial aspect.”

Lee’s Summit CARES was a key part of drafting the ordinance. “Lee’s Summit CARES supports efforts to reduce youth access to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs in our community,” Rachel Segobia, director said in a statement. “Research shows increased access to these substances increases youth use. We would support efforts to prohibit the commercial sale of marijuana as a strategy to prevent greater youth access to marijuana in our community.”

The proposed ordinance also states, “The legalization of marijuana poses a threat to public health and safety in our community, including impaired driving, traffic accidents, and accidental ingestion of marijuana products by children; and, legalization and normalization of marijuana use for adults tends to result in increased marijuana use among young people as well; and, young people who use marijuana regularly are particularly susceptible to its negative effects, including psychological and psychiatric effects, addiction, reduced motivation, and reduced school performance.”

Several hemp shops are located in Lee’s Summit. Vince Sanders, owner of CBD American Shaman on Blue Parkway says the proposed ordinance wouldn’t affect his business. “Missouri has a law that CBD (Cannabidiol) can’t be over five percent by weight. Our products are at 1% or 1/30th. We’re fine under federal law and it shouldn’t affect us.” American Shaman categorizes itself as a health and beauty store with products containing industrial hemp.

Kansas City voters approved lowering penalties for possession of marijuana to $25 with no jail time in last April’s elections. The new law lowered the fine from $500 to $25 and eliminated jail time.

Up to 180 days in jail was possible under the old ordinance. The new ordinance only applies when defendants possess 35 grams or less of marijuana – about 1 ¼ ounce – in Kansas City Municipal Court cases, according to the Kansas City Star.

The vote came on the heels of a massive campaign led by the Kansas City chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORMLKC. “I’ve collected thousands of signatures around the KC area including people in Lee’s Summit,” says Jen Shockley, volunteer coordinator for Lee’s Summit NORMLKC. “This (proposed ordinance) is definitely going against what the people of Lee’s Summit are saying. An extremely high percentage of them are signing the petition and it’s very unfortunate that city council would restrict any kind of cannabis especially medical cannabis.”

NORMLKC is hosting a meeting on Sunday, February 4th at Captain’s Sports Bar & Grill in Lee’s Summit to gather signatures for their petition to put the Missouri Marijuana Legalization Initiative on the ballot.