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New Orleans City Council decriminalizes Marijuana in historic pardoning

Smoking cannabis will be prohibited in public spaces, but violators will receive a ticket as a violation of the Smoke-Free Air Act instead of a drug summons.

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orlenas City Council pardoned thousands of people who have been cited for marijuana possession.

According to Council President Helena Moreno, about 10,000 convictions and pending case penalties for small amounts of cannabis possession have been pardoned as well as any future summons.

The council hopes that the new move will help the community gain trust with New Orleans police as well as making law enforcement more available to target violent crimes in the city.

“We must begin to rethink the historical practices that have over-incarcerated, over-fined, and stigmatized our communities for decades," Moreno said. "The time to end the criminalization of cannabis possession is now. I’m proud of what this City Council has accomplished today. This is historic.”

Smoking cannabis will be prohibited in public spaces, but violators will receive a ticket as a violation of the Smoke-Free Air Act instead of a drug summons.

“Utilizing our limited public safety resources in the most efficient way makes sense. Our focus should be on violent criminals and those who would hurt others. Pardoning these offenses and freeing up resources in our overburdened criminal justice system are important steps towards making our city much safer for all of us,” District B Councilmember Jay Banks said.

Though the City Council does not have the authority to legalize recreational marijuana, it does have the power to fully decriminalize it.

The pardons for around 10,000 past offense are expected to go into effect immediately. The automatic pardons of future offense won't go into effect until Sept. 15, so that police have time to adjust to the new policy. The City Council will have to pardon anyone arrested for possession of marijuana between now and then.