In early September, officials in Shawnee County, Kansas, announced that due to budget constraints, they would stop prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence cases. This resulted in many domestic violence cases being dismissed without prosecution throughout the county. Also, a flood of such cases is being sent to the Topeka legal system instead.
Topeka is in just as dire economic straits as the county in which it resides. After determining that they could not afford to prosecute these cases either, the city council is now considering a series of proposals to cut expenses from the budget. One of those is removing the portion of the city code criminalizing domestic battery. Adding insult to injury, literally, they’ve chosen Domestic Violence Awareness Month to have this discussion.
Can’t these city council members think of something less vile, hurtful, and dangerous to both individuals and society than domestic abuse to decriminalize?
Decriminalize marijuana to save money and protect your citizens from domestic violence.
Decriminalize Marijuana, Not Domestic Violence
It has come to my attention that the city of Topeka, facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, is considering repealing that portion of the city code that bans domestic battery as a means of forcing county officials to prosecute this crime – something Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor has apparently already stopped doing.
In fact, since Taylor announced on September 8 that he would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanor cases in the City of Topeka, 30 domestic battery cases have not been pursued, and three alleged domestic violence offenders have been released – their cases put on hold – until the dispute over who will pay for prosecution of such cases has been resolved.
I write to offer a potential solution to this standoff: decriminalize misdemeanor marijuana possession instead. Many other governments, state and local, are facing similar budget deficiencies and are increasingly turning to marijuana decriminalization as a partial solution. In fact, just this year the Connecticut Legislature passed a measure decriminalizing possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana. In 2008, 65% of Massachusetts’ voters approved a similar measure, and ten other states – including neighboring Colorado and Nebraska – have also decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Marijuana decriminalization is also an increasingly popular solution at the municipal level. Columbia, Missouri, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and even your in-state neighbor, Lawrence, Kansas are among the many municipalities that have made possession of marijuana a civil, fineable offense with no possibility of jail time.
Not only would decriminalizing marijuana free up funds, but Topeka police, who would otherwise be tied up booking and processing non-violent marijuana users, could instead simply write a ticket and return to protecting the community from real threats to public safety, like domestic abusers. The same goes for judges, prosecutors, and district attorneys, like Mr. Taylor, should Shawnee County consider a similar move.
As our recession recovery continues, all across the country cities and counties are being forced to make decisions, many of them very difficult, about what services they can afford to provide. Those who would abuse their own loved ones are among the greatest threats to public safety in any community. Battered spouses should not be left defenseless in the name of enforcing misguided marijuana laws. Will you please consider this sensible alternative?
I look forward to your reply.