Law Gives Officers Choice
NEW ORLEANS -- People charged with possession of marijuana in New Orleans will no longer be arrested and taken to jail.
A city law that went into effect at 7 a.m. Sunday now gives police the option of issuing a summons to violators.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said the point of the new law is to free up local judges to handle more important cases.
"This is ultimately the goal: to bring the city attorney's in as the prosecutors of those cases, so I can bring my assistant D.A.'s who had to handle the municipal court cases -- the misdemeanor cases in municipal court -- back to criminal court," Cannizzaro said.
Cannizarro said the change provides a more efficient criminal justice system; not just for his office, but for police as well.
A recent study found that about 2,500 people are taken to jail each year in New Orleans as a direct result of marijuana possession.
Proponents of the new law said the change from criminal to municipal court clears jail space and the lightens the criminal case load.
The penalties for marijuana possession remain as a $500 fine or up to six months behind bars.
In December, New Orleans gave the green light to reclassify simple marijuana possession as a municipal offense. It took some time for other entities like the New Orleans Police Department, the sheriff's office and the city's attorney to implement the changes.
January 30, 2011
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