Two major discussions are taking place in New Orleans this week to discuss easing up on marijuana-related penalties in Orleans Parish. An ordinance is being proposed by District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry that would make penalties for marijuana use and possession more lenient than getting a traffic ticket.
Penalties under the new law would be:
- Verbal warning for the first offense of possession of a small amount of marijuana
- $50 fine for the second offense
- $100 fine for third and additional offenses
The new law would give police officers more discretion when confronting individuals and finding that they are in possession of marijuana. According to WDSU, the Councilwoman says that too many people are being jailed for simple marijuana possession. It clogs up the jails and is taking up valuable police resources.
Councilwoman Guidry says, “To see a situation where they feel like they should just give a warning and they can do that and then see another situation where they know they’re dealing with a bad actor and what they’ve got on them at that point.”
In terms of the crime versus the consequences, Guidry says, “They can’t bond out and they wind up losing their job then they get out and they are really in desperate circumstances and really it makes the severity of the punishment much more than the severity of the crime.”
Guidry introduced a law in 2010 giving police officers the discretion to give a warning or complete an arrest on a first offense of marijuana possession. Since then, she reports that there have been 5,000 fewer arrests for marijuana possession in New Orleans.
Statistics in New Orleans show that in 70-percent of cases police officers are writing court summons instead of making arrests for marijuana possession. Police officers are able to concentrate their time on prosecuting murders, armed robberies and rapes.
The first scheduled meeting to discuss this new proposal is on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 with the Criminal Justice Committee. The second meeting is scheduled with the City Council on Thursday, January 28, 2016.