NEW ORLEANS — Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana is one step closer to happening in New Orleans.
The City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee unanimously approved the idea, but certain law enforcement agencies might not go along.
Louisiana’s laws regulating marijuana use are still in effect, meaning State Police or any other enforcement agency other than NOPD patrolling in New Orleans could fine or arrest any person possessing marijuana. The action from the committee would ultimately change how NOPD operates and handles marijuana cases.
The legislation would dismiss more than 10,000 previously charged marijuana cases, pardon all future minor possession of marijuana charges, but prohibit public smoking of weed.
“I don’t smoke weed. Never been my thing,” said Councilmember Jay Banks.
Still, Banks believes people who do want to have a small amount of pot should not go to jail.
“I believe that the public’s interest is much better served with our police focusing on people that are committing violent crimes against all of us,” Banks said.
The Criminal Justice Committee believes changes to the city’s cannabis law is a step toward equity and justice. Council President Moreno maintains statistics show a bias in enforcement with 86% of summons being issued to black people. The council believes this has negative impacts on employment and housing.
The public comments were overwhelmingly in support of the committee’s efforts. Some also believe it would help veterans suffering from PTSD.
New Orleans resident Adrian Bruneau said, “We’re no longer going to trap people into the criminal justice system, we’re no longer going to hamstring people that are in law enforcement, and we’re not going to handcuff people who are simply trying to medicate or to relax or to be an adult and enjoy this.”
Meanwhile, resident Perry Brown said, “The only thing it does is relaxes our mind. It’s way better than pills and booze. All that stuff does is gives us the blues.”
The committee’s move does not legalize marijuana use, but it would deciminalize possession of 14 grams or less.
As for when New Orleans could see changes, the proposal still needs to go before the full city council and that could take several weeks.