Lars Plougmann

New Orleans City Council Moves Forward With Cannabis Decriminalization

The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously Thursday in approval of an ordinance that lets police give citations for the possession of small amounts of cannabis, rather than being forced to arrest offenders.

Ordinance #31, 148 — which, if approved by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, will become Sec. 54-505 of the NOLA Code — was brought to the legislative table by city councilwoman Susan Guidry.

The ordinance expands upon a 2010 law sponsored by councilwoman Guidry that lets police officers in New Orleans issue a court summons for cannabis possession for first-time offenders.

Guidry had initially pushed for allowing first-time offenders caught in possession of up to 14 grams to be let off with a verbal warning, and second-time offenders given a written warning. A third-time offender would be issued a $50 ticket, and a fourth-timer would be given a $100 ticket.

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison questioned the legality of requiring police officers to keep a record of such verbal warnings, as well as the capacity of the policy department to maintain such records.

Guidry’s new ordinance now heads to Mayor Landrieu, whose office has indicated that he is will sign it into law. The ordinance will take effect 90 days after being signed.

“Public safety is our top priority right now, we are hiring and training a larger, more professional police force that will give us the tools required to reduce violent crime, reduce response times and provide our residents and visitors with the security we all deserve. The ordinance will become law,” a statement from the Mayor’s office reads.

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