First, Wichita, Kansas city council members, at the urging of the mayor, decided to stop enforcing the pot laws. Then, Sedgwick County commissioners threatened to bill the city when the county enforces the pot laws. (Marijuana remains illegal in Kansas.) And now, Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple vigorously clapped back at the county, reports KFDI.
The marijuana decriminalization ordinance was the mayor’s idea. Whipple called Wednesday’s discussion by Sedgwick County commissioners on a city ordinance change for marijuana possession a “political show.” The mayor added he doesn’t see the county having any legal basis for billing the city on the costs of prosecuting pot possession cases.
The commissioners’ discussion was a response to the Wichita City Council’s Tuesday decision to remove Cannabis possession from the Municipal Court jurisdiction.
“We’re Going To Bill Them”
County Commission Chairman David Dennis called on staff to look at the possibility of billing Wichita for expenses resulting from handling the cases in district court. “Be ready to react with a resolution immediately so that we can start recovering the expense that they’ve just dumped on Sedgwick County,” County Commissioner David Dennis said Wednesday, reports KWCH.
“At what point do we start charging the city of Wichita for this process,” Dennis asked, reports The Wichita Eagle. “Because we’re going to bill them for all the people that go into our jail,” he threatened.
District Attorney Marc Bennett claimed his office would be able to handle only a portion of the 750-850 cases the city court has handled each year. “To simply become the weed czar of Sedgwick County, that’s not my role,” Bennett complained.
“Back Door Tax” For Wichita Residents
At his weekly press briefing, Mayor Whipple called Dennis’ proposal for billing the city a “back door tax” on Wichita citizens. He said that would have Wichita residents paying twice, since the city is a majority of the county’s tax base.
Whipple said “it just feels like a bad civics class on YouTube. There’s no legal way to send us an invoice for the stuff that the county chooses to spend their money on. That’s not how this works.”
The mayor said there are a number of state laws that are not enforced in city courts. He pointed out that the district court still can enforce those laws.
Final Approval Set For Sept. 20
Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell on Wednesday claimed that the discussion on the marijuana ordinance was rushed. But Whipple said the county has been talking about the issue since June with public discussion and workshops.
The mayor spicily added that county officials could have gone to City Hall with their concerns. But none of them did, he said.
The City Council is planning final approval of the ordinance change at their next meeting Tuesday, September 20.