Despite what Jeff Sessions says about cannabis, some local politicians are fighting against the injustice of arresting people for marijuana. Marijuana arrests in New Orleans have plummeted after a policy change that was implemented to allow for more tolerant policing. Between June 2016 and May 2017, only 1 percent of meetings between police and people accused of marijuana possession ended in an arrest.
The Policy Change
Troubled by the number of marijuana arrests and wasted resources, the New Orleans City Council began encouraging the New Orleans Police Force to focus less on marijuana possession charges. Since then, The City Council voted in an order that authorizes the police to issue court summonses to those caught with marijuana. These court summonses were meant to replace putting people under arrest for marijuana possession.
These summonses result in fines, rather than jail time. For a first offense, the fine is $40. The fee increases by $20 per offense, and caps off at $100. The ordinance still permits police to arrest people for marijuana if they believe it’s absolutely necessary.
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry explains to local media, “In our estimation, the punishment more neatly matches the crime.”
In 2016, these changes in marijuana changes went state-wide. The Louisiana House of Representatives legalized medical marijuana. The medical marijuana legislation also permits municipalities to issue ordinances for marijuana possession, following New Orleans’ lead.
Arrests Are Way Down In Louisiana
One of the Louisiana House of Representatives’ objectives was to decrease the number of people in jail. Though the state government has yet to decriminalize marijuana, marijuana arrests in New Orleans plummet after the city passed the policy change that allows for summons and fines over arrests. This has led to less jail time.
According to last year’s figures, only 1 percent of meetings between police and those accused of marijuana possession culminated in an arrest. Only a few years ago, this percentage was staggering: 72 percent of these encounters lead to an arrest between 2011 and 2014 according to media reports.
Councilwoman Guidry says of the decrease in percentage of arrests, “It was just astounding to see the effect this message had.”
In 2014, 3 out of every 4 people arrested for marijuana possession were black. This figure has also decreased since the police began issuing ordinances instead of arrests.
Overall, the NOPD arrests 5,000 fewer people for marijuana possession annually since the City Council implemented its new arrest policy.
Final Hit: Marijuana Arrests in New Orleans Plummet After Policy Change
This seemingly small change in New Orleans police policy has had a huge impact on the number of people arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession.
Though recreational marijuana isn’t legal yet, the state is making strides in medical marijuana, police discrimination and arrest rates.