New Orleans City Council moves forward to decriminalize marijuana

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — On Thursday morning the City Council passed several major agenda items authored by Council President Helena Moreno to end penalties for small amounts of cannabis possession and pardon roughly ten thousand convictions and pending cases. 

The effort is to help gain community trust with police and allow New Orleans Police Department officers to focus their efforts on reducing recent spikes in violent crime.

Although the Council does not have the authority to legalize recreational marijuana, it does have the power to fully decriminalize as it has done today. 

The Council was able to eliminate penalties to simple possession of marijuana in New Orleans by utilizing its pardon power prospectively and retrospectively. The Council has pardoned all future summons. Anyone who receives this summons is immediately forgiven with no additional action necessary by the accused, the officer, or the court; this means no court appearance and no police report are needed.

The Council also cleared roughly 10,000 past convictions and pending cases of simple possession of marijuana by passing a motion enabling a blanket pardon of those charges.

Smoking of cannabis will still be prohibited in public spaces, but instead of NOPD issuing a drug summons, it will be a ticket in violation of the Smoke-Free Air Act which is not a drug charge.

“These new policies will help NOPD build community trust and use saved manpower hours to address major issues like shootings, murders, and the overall prevention of violence in our city,” said Council President Helena Moreno. “We must begin to rethink the historical practices that have over-incarcerated, over-fined, and stigmatized our communities for decades. The time to end the criminalization of cannabis possession is now. I’m proud of what this City Council has accomplished today. This is historic,” added Moreno.

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