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New Orleans Decriminalizes Cannabis & Pardons 10,000 Cannabis Convictions

The New Orleans City Council approved language to retroactively and proactively pardon all low-level cannabis cases in the city, effectively nixing some 10,000 cannabis convictions and decriminalizing cannabis moving forward.

The New Orleans City Council approved language to decriminalize low-level cannabis possession and pardon some 10,000 cannabis convictions and pending cases, WGNO reports. While the City Council does not have the authority to fully legalize cannabis, it effectively decriminalized possession by proactively and retroactively pardoning low-level cannabis cases, meaning that any future offenses will have already been pardoned.

“The time to end the criminalization of cannabis possession is now,” said Council President Helena Moreno, who authored the language.

The changes were passed unanimously by the City Council and represent an effort to rebuild community trust in law enforcement. It is also meant to free up police efforts to focus on more serious crimes, including recent spikes in violent crime.

Cannabis use is still prohibited in public spaces but moving forward police can only ticket cannabis consumption as a conventional smoking violation, not as a drug-related issue. The council also removed penalties for the possession of cannabis-related paraphernalia.

The approximately 10,000 pardons of prior and current cannabis cases took effect immediately but police can still enforce current possession laws through September 15, meaning the City Council may need to return to issue pardons for anyone who is penalized in the meantime.

In June, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed legislation reducing penalties for possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis in the state to just a $100 fine.

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