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Kentucky County Halts Cannabis Possession Prosecutions

Citing racial discrimination issues, police and prosecutors in Jefferson County, Kentucky will no longer pursue low-level cannabis possession crimes if it’s the only or primary charge.

Full story after the jump.

Jefferson County, Kentucky officials are no longer prosecuting low-level cannabis possession crimes if it’s the only or primary charge, the Courier-Journal reports.

County Attorney Mike O’Connell said the decision comes after a Courier-Journal report found that African-Americans accounted for two-thirds of cannabis possession cases in 2017 and Black drivers in Louisville were charged with possession at six times the rate of white drivers — national studies have found that both Black and white people consume cannabis at the same rates. 

“For me to truly be a minister of justice, I cannot sit idly by when communities of color are treated differently.” — O’Connell, to the Courier-Journal 

The policy applies to cases of one ounce or less and for paraphernalia used only for cannabis consumption. Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad told the Courier-Journal that he will tell his officers not to “routinely write citations for this specific offense.” The Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance in June making possession of a half-ounce or less of cannabis the lowest priority for police officers.

O’Connell’s office will still prosecute cannabis cases linked to trafficking, cultivation, driving under the influence, public consumption, and possession cases involving individuals under 21-years-old. Cannabis possession in Kentucky is punishable by up to 45 days in jail and a $250 fine; although a 2012 law allows those charges to be expunged after 60 days.  

Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokeswoman, Jean Porter, told the Courier-Journal that the mayor respects O’Connell’s decision and Conrad’s efforts to reform police practices. 

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