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U.S.: Study Finds Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those For Violent Crimes


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new study has found that arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana exceeded those for all violent crimes last year, even though more and more cities and states have decriminalized or legalized the plant and attitudes toward it have changed.

And even though African-Americans smoke pot at rates similar to whites, black adults were found to be arrested at more than two and a half times the rate of whites.

Th report was released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

"Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime," the report finds, citing FBI data. "More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year."

The report says that on any given day in the United States, at least 137,000 men and women sit behind bars on simple drug possession charges.

Nearly two-thirds of them are in local jails. Most of these jailed inmates have not been convicted of any crime, the report says. They're sitting in a cell, awaiting a day in court which may be months or even years off, because they can't afford to post bail.

Louisiana: New Orleans Softens Marijuana Possession Laws Starting This Week

Louisiana  weed.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Simple possession of marijuana in New Orleans will carry fewer consequences for repeat offenders starting Wednesday, June 22. Since 2010 police have been allowed to issue a court summons to someone caught with pot for the first time. That option will now apply to subsequent offenders as well.

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison explained Monday to members of the City Council Criminal Justice Committee how his officers will enforce the new standards. The new law applies to anyone over the age of 17 holding less than 2.5 pounds of marijuana. It will be at the discretion of the police officer to determine whether the pot is for personal use or if the suspect intended to distribute it.

The softer rules won't apply if the the suspect is found in drug-free zones, which include schools, parks, and several churches.

The ordinance taking effect Wednesday also establishes a fine structure for possession: $40 for a first offense, $60 for a second, $80 for a third, and $100 for a fourth and beyond.

It wasn't made clear at Monday's committee meeting whether the Louisiana State Police troopers who patrol New Orleans would follow the looser city standards on weed possession or follow state law, which requires an arrest. There was no immediate response to a request for comment from State Police.

Louisiana: New Orleans City Council Decriminalizes Marijuana

Louisiana marijuana.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new ordinance approved by the New Orleans City Council will allow city police to issue summons and small fines instead of arresting and jailing people accused of simple marijuana possession.

The guidelines were unanimously approved; proponents say they will allow police to focus on more serious, violent crime.

The new ordinance would allow police to issue a summons and charge a fine ranging from $40 to $100. The amount of the fine would depend on whether the person is a repeat offender.

Police would still be able to use harsher state laws including arrest, jail time, and higher fines if police think necessary.

Susan Guidry was the council member who proposed the ordinance. "I think that there is a trend throughout the country that we have been incarcerating too many people for nonviolent crimes," she said.

The regulations now go to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. If he signs the ordinance, it would go into effect in 90 days.

Louisiana: Sentencing Reprieve Requested For Man Given 13 Years For 2 Joints


The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday formally requested Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to grant Bernard Noble a gubernatorial reprieve and release him from prison, where he has served more than four years behind bars having been sentenced to a term of 13.3 years of hard labor without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution, the Governor has the absolute power to issue reprieves of persons convicted of crimes against the state. Drug Policy Alliance has written Governor Jindal asking him to exercise his power of office by staying Noble’s unjust sentence and setting him free.

Legislation signed into law by Governor Jindal earlier this year would make Noble a free man today had it been the law at the time of his offense. Because the new law is not retroactive in its application, a gubernatorial reprieve is required for Noble’s release. Noble has been a model prisoner during his incarceration.

Back in March, Gov. Jindal denied a clemency request from Noble; the reason given was that Noble hadn't yet served 10 years in prison.

Louisiana: New Directions New Orleans Brings Public Health Approach To Drug Policy


One-Day Conference Brings Elected Officials Together with Leading Drug Policy and Criminal Justice Experts to Chart a Health-Based Approach to Drug Policy

Louisiana Leads Nation in Incarceration Rates; Prison Population Has Doubled in Last 20 Years, With Staggering Racial Disparities

An unprecedented collection of drug policy stakeholders – including judges, elected officials, public health workers, law enforcement, and community advocates – will come together to chart a new course for Louisiana’s drug policies at New Directions New Orleans on Thursday, April 2 from 9 am-5 pm at Dillard University.

The one-day conference will provide Louisianans with the opportunity to engage many of the leading minds on drug policy and criminal justice reform from across the country and around the world, who will discuss strategies for moving beyond Drug War policies and toward a health-centered approach to drug use.

“Louisiana continues to strive to become a more population health focused state, but one of the outstanding issues we face are antiquated drug and criminal justice policies,” said Joe Kimbrell, CEO, Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI). “This collaborative conference will be a strong starting point for these extraordinary partners to begin outlining what new policies and best practices we can utilize to educate our policymakers and create a safer, healthier Louisiana.”

Louisiana: Rally In New Orleans To Call For Clemency For Man Serving 13 Years For Marijuana Possession


Criminal justice stakeholders, New Orleans city Council members, sentencing reform advocates, community activists, concerned citizens, friends and family will gather on Saturday, March 7, to rally support for clemency for Bernard Noble, currently serving 13.3 years for 2.8 grams for marijuana.

Noble, a 48-year old father of seven, was arrested while riding his bike when officers discovered 2.8 grams of marijuana, the equivalent of two to three marijuana cigarettes. Characterizing Noble as “exceptional,” two Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges departed from the mandatory minimal sentence stating “Mr. Noble’s inevitable incarceration will be a greater punishment for his children than for himself,” and Noble’s “particular circumstance is the rare exceptional situation and does not represent the type of individual contemplated by the legislature when assigning sentences.”

Using simple possession convictions from 1991 and 2003, the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office charged Noble under the habitual offender law and sought the mandatory minimum sentence despite the trail judges’ disapproval and disagreement with the length of punishment. Trial judges twice departed from sentencing Noble to the state requested mandatory minimum of 13 years and four months and sentenced him to 5 years.

Louisiana: Bill To Reduce Marijuana Penalties Goes Before Full Senate


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill which would reduce the penalties for marijuana possession in Louisiana passed a legislative hurdle on Tuesday. House Bill 103 was approved in a Senate judicial committee and sent to the floor of the full Senate. If approved there, the bill would go to Governor Bobby Jindal's desk.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans), would lessen the jail time and fines imposed on people convicted of simple marijuana possession, reports Lauren McGaughy of The New Orleans Times Picayune.

Badon said the bill would "keep families together, to keep people [from] going on the unemployment rolls," speaking before the Senate Judiciary C Committee on Tuesday. According to Badon, keeping people charged with marijuana possession out of jail would save Louisiana taxpayers $2.2 million in incarceration costs; the bill's fiscal note backs up his assertion.

The lowered penalties would not apply to those charged with intent to distribute or to those in possession of synthetic products like K2 or Spice.

Louisiana: Bill Which Would Have Reduced Marijuana Penalties Gets Majority Support; Fails Anyway

(Graphic: Would Have Ended Life Sentences For Marijuana In Louisiana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Legislation that would have reduced Louisiana's draconian marijuana penalties found a majority of support in the state House of Representatives on a 46-45 vote -- but it failed anyway, because House rules require any bill to pass with a simple majority of total House members, making 53 votes necessary to enact a new law.

The bill would have greatly reduced prison sentences and fines for marijuana offenders in the state. On May 21 it went to the House floor for the third reading; the final 46-45 vote was tantalizingly close to changing the face of marijuana enforcement in Louisiana.

HB 103 would have concentrated more on fines and less on prison sentences than the current law, and thus would have helped reduce Louisiana's world-record prison population with more realistic sentencing guidelines, reports William Dilella at NOLA Defender.

The law, notably, would also have created separation between penalties for marijuana and its synthetic imitators such as Spice and K2, which have been shown to have actual side effects and can create legitimate health concerns.

Louisiana: Bill Advances To Soften Marijuana Penalties

(Graphic: Possession Can Get You 20 Years For Third Offense Under Current Louisiana Law

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

After debating for for more than an hour on Wednesday, a Louisiana House committee advanced a bill that would soften the state's penalties for marijuana possession.

The sticking point in House Bill 103, reports Michelle Millhollow of The Advocate, was how to address habitual offenders and other already convicted marijuana offenders.

Current Louisiana law requires a third or subsequent marijuana possession conviction to be punished by up to 20 years in prison. The felony conviction can also be used to enhance the prison sentence when offenders have at least two other felony convictions.

Louisiana prosecutors sometimes use marijuana possession charges to send offenders to prison for life under the state's Three Strikes habitual offender law.

HB 103 sponsor Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) wants to allow those in jail for marijuana possession to be able to ask the court to reconsider their sentences. He also wants to stop prosecutors from sending marijuana possession offenders to prison for life as habitual offenders.

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