Advocates say the move will allow law enforcement to focus on violent crime

Earlier this week, New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno announced that the local cannabis decriminalization legislation will moving forward for final approval the Council’s meeting on Thursday, Aug. 5.

The legislation pardons thousands of summonses issued by NOPD and creates an innovative “automatic pardon” for any future summonses, functionally removing penalties for small possession of cannabis in New Orleans. 

“This policy will help NOPD build community trust, plus with saved manpower hours, they can focus on major problems like shootings, murders and overall preventing violence in our city,” Moreno said. “The time to end the criminalization of cannabis possession is now. It’s clear that we need NOPD focused on violent crime, not victimless cannabis possession. Studies and data have shown that these laws have historically been enforced in a racially biased manner and have only served to over-incarcerate, over-fine, and stigmatize while failing to stem violence in our communities. It’s time to rethink our public safety strategies to break the cycles that have plagued our communities for decades.”  

The legislation immediately pardons over 10,000 summonses issued, waives any convictions, ends the accumulation of fines and fees, and stops the unnecessary prosecution of these minor cannabis possession charges. It does not affect other charges faced by the same individuals. 

During its June hearing before the Criminal Justice Committee, the District B Councilman Jay H. Banks, District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen, and Councilwoman-At-Large Donna Glapion agreed to sign on as co-authors.

The legislation also extends the “Smoke-Free NOLA” ordinance to restrict the smoking of cannabis in public in order to maintain public health protections for all.  The legislation will be heard by the full Council on Thursday, August 5. You can watch the meeting live here and submit public comment here.

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