The New Orleans Police Department announced beginning this week they will no longer issue citations for simple possession of marijuana.
The New Orleans City Council passed the law last year, back in August. It was to take effect September 15. But police were undeterred. They continued arresting people until this week.
“I personally feel it is a really great idea,” said New Orleans resident Jessica Paice. “I am all about the decriminalization of cannabis.”
Blacks Disproportionately Arrested
“If you know the history of this country, you know the way they have used this so called ‘war on drugs’ as an attack against African people in this country,” said Marcus Sangodoyin-Akinlana.
New Orleans police arrest Blacks disproportionately for Cannabis possession in Louisiana, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.
Law Was To Take Effect Months Ago
The law was to go into effect back on September 15, 2021. Soon after, New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance to issue automatic pardons because police were still arresting folks. The pardons allowed people charged with pot possession to avoid fines or court appearances.
The NOPD issued dozens of citations for possession of small amounts of marijuana — forcing people to appear in court to defend themselves — over the past several months. They only altered their policy after the The Lens ran an exposé.
It looked exactly like foot dragging before they recognized a new law calling for automatic pardons for the offense.
Possession Charges Can Haunt People
Kevin Caldwell with the Marijuana Policy Project said it is time to stop arresting people for weed possession.
“People lose the opportunity to get jobs, to get housing,” Caldwell said. ”To get educational assistance. These are key things that can haunt people for the rest of their lives for something that is legal in 18 states.”
Cannabis is still illegal in Louisiana, other than for patients with a medical marijuana card. But with this small sign of progress, activists hope other changes will follow.
NOPD: We Will Still Seize Marijuana
The New Orleans Police Department released a statement about the change in policy. It’s not a surprise that they sound a wee bit grumpy. After all, weed possession was one of their favorite excuses to fuck with people.
“NOPD has revised our policy covering procedures related to simple possession of marijuana,” reads a department press release. “Under the revised policy, officers will no longer issue citations for simple possession alone.
“However, marijuana remains an illegal substance under Louisiana revised statute law and our officers are obligated to seize marijuana as contraband. Once that marijuana is seized, officers must still take time to record and log it as property.”