Friday, June 21, 2024

Here’s What Happened When New Orleans Decriminalized Marijuana

One year ago, the New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to decriminalize marijuana possession. The results of the change in law have been staggering.

According to data collected by city officials, possession arrests have nose-dived in The Big Easy. Just one percent of encounters between police and a citizen accused of carrying marijuana resulted in an arrest between June 2016 and May 2017. Before decriminalization, more than  70 percent of such encounters resulted in an arrest. In those cases, roughly 75 percent of those arrested were African Americans.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

[City Councilwoman Susan] Guidry said those numbers reflect the fact that beginning in 2010, City Council members began urging the New Orleans Police Department to stop spending time on simple marijuana possession arrests because it was a waste of its resources.

During that time period, Guidry said, the message resulted in police reducing simple marijuana possession arrests by about 5,000 compared with the four years prior to the council taking office. She said it also reduced the number of contacts police made with marijuana offenders.

“It was just astounding to see the effect this message had,” Guidry said.

Under Louisiana state law, marijuana possession offenses are punishable by a term of incarceration of up to eight years, depending on whether the person convicted is a repeat offender. But last March of last year, the city council voted 7-0 in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (14 grams or less). First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100.

In recent years, nearly 60 municipalities in states where cannabis remains criminalized have enacted local ordinances either partially or fully decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

Legislation is currently pending in the Louisiana House of Representatives to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, along with the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia, statewide.


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