On Thursday, August 5, 2021, the New Orleans City Council voted to end penalties for small amounts of marijuana possession. The council passed a separate ordinance to make retroactive pardons available immediately, a move that is estimated to clear about 10,000 past offenses. The city will begin issuing prospective pardons on September 15.
The council hopes that the new move will help the community gain trust with New Orleans police as well as making law enforcement more available to target violent crimes in the city.
Moving forward, anyone who receives a summons for simple possession of marijuana will be immediately forgiven with no additional action necessary. Smoking marijuana is still prohibited in public spaces, but instead of being issued a drug summons, violators of the Smoke-Free Air Act will be ticketed, which is not a drug charge.
What does this mean for the State of Louisiana?
While New Orleans has decriminalized possession of small quantities of marijuana, the state will still impose a fine for less than half an ounce.
On June 14, 2021, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Rep. Cedric Glover’s decriminalization bill HB 652 into law. This new law will save thousands of Louisiana citizens from being incarcerated for having small amounts of cannabis. Starting on August 1, the penalty for possessing up to 14 grams (or 0.49 oz.) of cannabis was reduced to a fine of up to $100. For those unable to pay, the court must use its discretion for alternatives, such as community service or installment payments. Possession of up to 14 grams is now enforced by a summons (like a traffic ticket), not an arrest. HB 652 does not reduce penalties for possessing over 14 grams or for possession with intent to distribute or sell of any amount. Those penalties remain harsh.
Louisiana was the leader among all states in incarceration for possession of marijuana in small amounts until recently.
The Last Prisoner Project
The Last Prisoner Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform. As the United States moves away from the criminalization of cannabis and gives rise to a major new industry, there remains the fundamental injustice inflicted upon those who have suffered criminal convictions and the consequences of those convictions.
The Healing Clinics supports the goals of organizations like The Last Prisoner Project. As the official organizer of CajunCannaCon, an event focused on providing a safe place to collaborate, network, and plan the future of cannabis in Louisiana, a percentage of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to The Last Prisoner Project.
Please click here to get your ticket and attend this groundbreaking event.