New Orleans City Council voted unanimously (7-0) to give police officers options when faced with low-level marijuana possession. Officers are given the option to issue a ticket for a first offense of marijuana possession. Dependent on the situation surrounding the offense, officers do still have the authority to make an arrest.
Council member Susan Guidry said, “Our hope with this is that fewer people will be brought to jail and fewer people will have their lives disrupted with this charge.”
According to NOLA.com, the fines for marijuana possession begin at $40, for a first offense. The fines are capped at $100 for 4th offenses and beyond. These minor infractions will be heard in municipal court moving forward, rather than in criminal district court systems.
Although the City Council voted to approve this new measure, Mayor Mitch Landrieu still has to sign the ordinance. Once it is signed, the ordinance is official and would take effect 90 days afterwards.
The Mayor’s office issued the following statement: “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.”
Susan Guidry worked in 2010 to push for ticketing practices for first offenses of marijuana possession. It has proven to be successful with 5,000 fewer arrests and tickets being issued from 2011 through 2014. That is the equivalent of a 31 percent decrease for marijuana possession related charges being issued.
The new ordinance has stiff penalties in place for synthetic marijuana product possession with fines being $500 for the first offense up to $1,000 for 3rd offenses and beyond.
State penalties range from $300 to $30,000 in fines for non-felony offenses in regards to marijuana possession offenses, ranging from possession of ½ ounce or less to 60 pounds. State law comes with mandatory jail time and a felony charge for possession of more than 60 pounds of marijuana.