The New Orleans City Council approved language to decriminalize low-level cannabis possession and pardon some 10,000 cannabis convictions and pending cases, WGNO reports. While the City Council does not have the authority to fully legalize cannabis, it effectively decriminalized possession by proactively and retroactively pardoning low-level cannabis cases, meaning that any future offenses will have already been pardoned.
“The time to end the criminalization of cannabis possession is now,” said Council President Helena Moreno, who authored the language.
The changes were passed unanimously by the City Council and represent an effort to rebuild community trust in law enforcement. It is also meant to free up police efforts to focus on more serious crimes, including recent spikes in violent crime.
“This policy will help NOPD build community trust, plus aim at saving manpower hours, so they can focus on the major problems, like shootings, murders and overall preventing violence in our city.” — Moreno, via WGNO
Cannabis use is still prohibited in public spaces but moving forward police can only ticket cannabis consumption as a conventional smoking violation, not as a drug-related issue. The council also removed penalties for the possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia.
The approximately 10,000 pardons of prior and current cannabis cases took effect immediately but police can still enforce current possession laws through September 15, meaning the City Council may need to return to issue pardons for anyone who is penalized in the meantime.
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