While much of the south is still not embracing marijuana legalization, many urban areas are trying to make an effort to catch up on the shift in thinking about cannabis in the country. Cities like New Orleans have decriminalized minor amounts of marijuana possession, and the police have embraced the intent of the new law.
Social injustice due to the federal prohibition of marijuana is a real problem in the country. People like Attorney General Jeff Sessions believe that marijuana should be illegal and that incarceration and other punitive penalties to deter marijuana use is the right way to go. Others see that arrests and convictions for minor non-violent marijuana crimes are ruining people’s lives for something that may be less harmful than alcohol, which had its prohibition end in 1933.
Responding in kind, the NOPD has all but eliminated marijuana charges from their protocol, reducing the rate of possession-related arrests from 72% of all police and pot interactions in 2011-2014, to the newly released number of only 1% in the last half of 2016 and first half of 2017. In terms of individual interactions, last year saw 5,000 fewer cannabis-related arrests in New Orleans than took place half a decade ago.
“It was just astounding to see the effect this message had,” New Orleans City Councilperson Susan Guidry said after announcing the new arrest statistics on Tuesday.
“In our estimation, the punishment more neatly matches the crime,” Guidry said. “This means our money and resources and efforts can be spent elsewhere…The effects of this are of course valuable not only to the defendant but also the NOPD.”
Having a criminal record at all can prevent people from getting jobs or admittance into schools. Especially considering marijuana seems to have true medicinal properties, and according to the American Medical Association marijuana legalization is inadvertently reducing the use of highly addictive opioids, why should cannabis consumption come with such high punitive risks?