NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans City Council is hailing its new ordinance on marijuana possession as a step toward progress.
"It's an understanding that's going on across the country now that we incarcerate way too many people," explained Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who championed the ordinance. "When you incarcerate people for non-violent crimes you aren't helping society, you're hurting it and at the cost of taxpayers."
NOPD officers may soon be able to issue fines instead of jail time for possession of marijuana, but they still retain the ability to arrest on state charges.
"The police chief is going to be writing a policy that will help clearly show the police officers how and when to use municipal law, which is a fine only, no prison time," said Guidry.
The measure is a sliding scale where a first-time offender pays a fine of $40. For each offense the amount increases. Some critics to the ordinance are asking how it's going to be enforced because state law still includes jail time. One of the loudest critics has been Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand.
“I don't get where we're talking about legalizing this legalizing that, trying to do this do that while these men and women are out there risking their lives day in and day out for what,” said Normand in a press conference after one of his deputies was shot during a drug raid earlier this year.
On the other side, supporters like Katie Schawrtmann with the MacArthur Justice Center said diverting people away from jail who don't need to be there will help the city.
"If you think about all the problems we have as a city, as a really dangerous violent city, we have an overworked police department and we have a jail that's incredibly dangerous for people to be in," she said. "So we need to make sure that we don't have anybody incarcerated that we don't absolutely need to have locked up.”
A drug that's been outlawed for so long may soon find leniency within city limits.