Members of the New Orleans city council approved a municipal ordinance late last night effectively eliminating local penalties for low-level marijuana possession offenses. In a separate action, city officials also moved to vacate thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.
Under the city’s previous policy, police issued summons for minor marijuana possession offenses. Those issued summons were required to pay a fine and faced prospects of a criminal record. Under the new policy, all fines are waived and anyone ticketed will receive a “prospective pardon.” No police report of the interaction will be generated and no court appearance is necessary.
The new depenalization policy takes effect on September 15.
Those who smoke cannabis in public will continue to be cited for violating the city’s the Smoke-Free Air Act .
A separate ordinance passed by the city clears the criminal records of anyone convicted since 2010 of a low-level marijuana possession offense. It is estimated that some 10,000 residents will be granted blanket pardons under this action. Those facing pending charges will also have their cases set aside.
“This policy will help NOPD build community trust, plus is aimed at saving manpower hours so that they can instead focus on the major problems like shootings, murders, and overall preventing violence in our city,” said City Council President Helena Moreno. “The time to end the criminalization of cannabis possession is now.”
On Sunday, statewide legislation partially decriminalizing minor cannabis possession offenses took effect. Unlike New Orleans’ municipal ordinance, the new state law neither provides relief for those with prior convictions nor does it eliminate fines for those who possess small quantities of the plant.