Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple says the discussion by Sedgwick County commissioners Wednesday on a city ordinance change for marijuana possession was a “political show” and he doesn’t see the county having a legal basis for billing the city on the costs of prosecuting possession cases.
The county discussion was a response to the City Council decision Tuesday to remove marijuana possession and the possession of fentanyl test strips from the jurisdiction of Municipal Court. County Commission Chairman David Dennis called on staff to look at the possibility of billing the city for costs that will result from the handling of the cases in district court. District Attorney Marc Bennett said his office would not be able to handle only a portion of the 750 to 850 cases that the city court has handled each year.
At his weekly press briefing, Mayor Whipple called Dennis’ proposal for billing the city a “back door tax” on the citizens of Wichita. He said that would have Wichita residents paying twice, since the city is a majority of the county’s tax base. He said “it just feels like a bad civics class on YouTube.” He said “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.” Whipple said there are a number of state laws that are not enforced in city courts, and the district court has the ability to enforce those laws.
In response to comments from County Commissioner Jim Howell that the discussion on the marijuana ordinance was rushed, Whipple said the county has been talking about the issue since June with public discussion and workshops, and he said county officials could have gone to City Hall with their concerns, but none of them did.
The City Council is planning final approval of the ordinance change at their next meeting Tuesday.