NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans City Councilwoman, Susan Guidry, announced recently that only 1 percent of people caught with marijuana ended with an arrest between 2016 and 2017, according to NOLA.com. Guidry made the announcement March 27, adding that the rate was 15 percent the prior year.
The city passed an ordinance that allowed police to give a summons instead making an arrest. The city council spent years requesting that New Orleans Police officers not waste the Department’s resources on minor marijuana possession arrests, beginning the requests in 2010. There was a 72 percent marijuana possession arrest rate from 2011 to 2014. Guidry said that 75 percent of those arrests were of Black people, adding that the ordinance was also a measure to combat racial discrimination from police.
The city council enacted an ordinance fining $40 for the first offense. The fines go up in $20 increments for each additional defense, capping-off at $100. The New Orleans Police Department implemented the policy well, with officers arresting people rarely for marijuana possession. Guidry said that “In our estimation, the punishment more neatly matches the crime.”
Guidry said that it typically takes about 6 hours for a police officer to arrest someone on a charge. She says that the city’s resources could be better spent on officers investigating serious crimes instead of wasting time on marijuana possession arrests, saying "This means our money and resources and efforts can be spent elsewhere," said Guidry.
The Councilwoman said that she was pleasantly surprised by the effects of the ordinance saying, "It was just astounding to see the effect this message had," adding that the police department immediately decreased marijuana possession arrests by 5,000 before any ordinance was passed.
The council implemented the ordinance beginning in 2016.