The legal effects of marijuana
By Jon Parton
According to a recent Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans believe that marijuana use should be legalized. Although the debate on legalization is ongoing, the laws prohibiting the usage and distribution are very uncompromising.
In the state of Kansas, possession of any amount of marijuana for personal use can result in up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500 for first time offenders. Frank Galbrecht, associate professor, administration of justice, said that possessing a large amount could mean more jail time and increased fines.
“The amount you have affects if it’s a level one felony or a misdemeanor,” Galbrecht said.
Subsequent offenses carry higher penalties, including mandatory jail time and increased fines. Not only is distribution of marijuana considered a felony, Kansas law increases penalties for those found guilty of doing so within 1,000 feet of a school zone, including a mandatory incarceration of at least four years and a maximum fine of $300,000.
Galbrecht said that criminal history is taken into consideration when judges administer punishment.
“Some of the criminal law legislature contains provisions for, if this is a repeat offense,” he said. “If the legislature doesn’t contain that, if you are convicted, when you go to court, judges have the option to look at your criminal history.”
Galbrecht added that criminal history is not looked at during the trial, only during the punishment phase.
“During your trial, that can’t come up,” Galbrecht said. “Doesn’t make a difference if you’ve done it before. One has to be convicted on the merits, facts, and circumstances of that case.”
Kansas also has laws that prohibit the possession of paraphernalia, treating it as a misdemeanor. The harshest penalties occur for those found guilty of cultivating marijuana, a felony that can include 12 to 17 years imprisonment. Larger amounts of marijuana are often tried at the state or federal level in order to levy higher fines and increased jail time.
“Law enforcement might have a big case, they might want to take it to federal court,” Galbrecht said.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) determined marijuana to be dangerous because the agency believes the drug has a high potential for abuse. Kay King, associate professor and chair, Administration of Justice, said that there are good reasons why the DEA considers the drug to be more dangerous than cocaine.
“It’s psychologically addicting, it’s not physically addicting,” King said.
King also said that the common method of consuming marijuana, through the lungs, can lead to health issues.
“The way they ingest it, they hold all the carcinogens in their lungs much longer in the way they smoke it,” King said.
According to campus police Sgt. Gregory Russell, the campus has had relatively few incidents regarding possession or distribution of marijuana.
“There was one incident for possession that led to an arrest last year, but they were not a student,” Russell said.
Russell said that if a student was caught on campus possessing marijuana, that student would immediately be arrested and sent to the Overland Park Police Department for booking.
“Not only would they be arrested, their report would be reported to the school, where they would risk expulsion,” Russell said.
Russell said that the school is currently organizing a campaign to help students fight drug dependence, no matter what the addiction might be. The Council of Addiction and Substance Abuse Issues (CASAI) seeks to address students fighting substance abuse.
“The important part is that we want students to be able to get help if they need it,” Russell said.
Contact Jon Parton, news editor, at email@example.com.