The sad reality of the enforcement of cannabis prohibition falls upon the poor and working class of our city. This is a national trend and in other cities and states leaders are changing policy- prohibition is falling by the wayside.
Yet in Louisiana, the prison capital of the world, we continue to incarcerate at an incredible rate. We have almost 1500 cannabis inmates serving time in Louisiana jails. The case of Bernard Noble is so egregious that it will soon have its own tab on our page.
Over two thousand people are arrested for cannabis every year in New Orleans.
The state data shows African Americans were 3.1 more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession; the City of New Orleans was not included. Even the diversion programs place an unfair burden on the poor and working poor as people must pay for their own urine tests for a period of up to 18 months.
In 2010 the City Council passed ordinance #28246 that gave officers the ability to write a municipal summons instead of arrest. Yet we have not seen a significant drop in arrests?
Just like in similar situations involving social change, New Orleans must lead from the front! Whereas the costs of prohibition have unfairly fallen on the shoulders of the poor and working class, this industry could, when implemented properly, create an opportunity for job creation and small businesses to flourish and help bring industry to neighborhoods that would welcome solid middle class jobs (and allow neighborhoods to opt out).
Many New Orleans representatives and senators have been fighting for years to have the social costs of prohibition ended yet have been stymied by other parts of the state.
Our vision for the industry would be to have a seven year residency requirement to own canna-business to assure that the beneficiaries are local and part of the community.
In addition, there would be a residency requirement to work in the industry. Even with the draconian sentencing laws Louisiana has, cannabis use has not decreased over the last fifty years. By following this plan, cannabis users would not need to deal with the black market and therefore not be exposed to narcotics by unscrupulous dealers.
Louisiana averages 13,000 cannabis arrests every year or 37% of total drug arrests in the state-and these numbers do not include New Orleans! The problem of law enforcement in building community trust and cooperation is exasperated by cannabis prohibition enforcement.
With a shortage of police officers in New Orleans we believe the citizens want to leverage our law enforcement officers to focus on violent crime. We want to be able to better judge the success of law enforcement officers in tackling the issues the citizens are concerned about and not have data skewed by “low hanging fruit” of cannabis arrests.
If we take an average of six hours per arrest (the arrest scene, processing arrestee, processing evidence and court time) for a low ball average of 2,000 arrests a year is 12,000 manpower hours lost on enforcement- we need to better allocate scarce resources in a time when budget constraints hamper city services.
The United states incarcerates 25% of the world’s prison population (while only accounting for 5% of the population) at a per capita rate of 769 per 100,000.
Louisiana leads the nation at 1699 per 100,000 …are we any safer? FBI statistics have us in the top 5 states for violent crime and New Orleans is usually in the top 5 for murders (per capita). It is time we adjust the way in which we work on public safety.