The city council of New Orleans, Louisiana yesterday approved a municipal city ordinance that retroactively and prospectively eliminates local penalties for low-level marijuana possession and clears some 10,000 pending cannabis cases and convictions. This sweeping move covered several of the council’s agenda items authored by Council President Helena Morena, who called these progressive actions “historic” during last night’s late evening meeting.
The unanimous approval of the new city ordinances, which go into full effect on September 15th, comes less than a week after the state of Louisiana officially decriminalized marijuana possession of up to 14 grams (a half an ounce). New Orleans specific new city ordinances pardon all future marijuana possession summons which, according to local outlet WGNO, “means no court appearance and no police report are needed.” Smoking in public within the city, or the state for that matter, is still prohibited and punishable with a ticket in violation of the state’s Smoke-Free Air Act, whether it be an old-fashioned pipe or a modernistic vape pen.
Many other states, elected officials, and influential persons are pushing not only for this kind of decriminalization but also for the dismantling of cannabis prohibition in the United States. There has also been a major focus on how that prohibition and criminalization have disproportionately affected certain communities, most specifically communities of color and Black Americans. N.O. Council President Morena spoke somewhat broadly on this topic during last night’s meeting, saying “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.” Her impassioned words and the entire council’s actions are a crucial and (some may say) long overdue ray of hope for true cannabis reformation as we move through this time of prolific change and acceptance toward a brighter future of full and safe legalization in the U.S.