Activists in Wichita, Kansas collecting petition signatures to reduce cannabis possession penalties were thwarted by police at City Hall who cited court decisions that interior spaces in public buildings are not unlimited forums for First Amendment activity, according to a Wichita Eagle report.
The activists usually collect signatures on the sidewalk outside of the building, but had moved inside due to extreme heat. City Hall Security Supervisor Mark Ingram said that he was enforcing a building rule and, while he allowed the petitioners to hold clipboards in order to permit people to sign the petition, the activists were not allowed to verbally ask people to sign.
Ingram said he consulted with the city attorney before stopping the solicitations. The petitioners argued that signature gathering is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.
The activists are attempting to collect enough signatures to add a question to 2018 ballots that would reduce cannabis possession penalties to $50. The campaign seeks to add the reforms to the City Charter, which would make it harder for future city councils to change.
According to the report, an earlier ballot initiative to reduce such penalties was approved by Wichita voters, but the Supreme Court nullified the result due to technical errors in the signature gathering process.