A Little Rock city director has proposed formally making misdemeanor marijuana offenses a “low priority” for city law enforcement officials. As Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson highlighted, simple misdemeanor marijuana offenses can haunt an individual for life, making it harder to secure employment and higher education.
If you live in Little Rock, please contact your directors and ask that they support this commonsense reform. If you are unsure of your ward’s city director, please go here to find out which ward you live in. In addition to your ward director, be sure to also email the three at-large directors that represent the entire city. This proposal is a great step in the right direction and will help shape policies at the state level in Arkansas.
Unfortunately, Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner had issues with the wording of the proposal and claimed the police department already views misdemeanor marijuana offenses as a low priority. If this is true, City Director Richardson explains there is no harm in simply putting this policy in writing.
If you're a Little Rock resident, please take a few minutes to make sure the city directors know their constituents want Little Rock to make marijuana offenses a low enforcement priority. Then, please spread the word to others in Little Rock!
If you are one of the many people that showed your friends, co-workers, and family the video of Columbia, Mo. SWAT officers raiding the home of Jonathan Whitworth and shooting his dogs immediately after kicking in the door, then you helped make a real difference for the people of Columbia and elsewhere.
According to Ken Burton, police chief of Columbia, the public outcry that followed the release and viral spread of this disturbing video forced his department to make major changes to the way in which it uses its SWAT teams. The direct result of this has been that “dynamic entry” of the sort that led to the tragic events in the video has not been used for drug enforcement once in 2011!
This is a wonderful example of how information-sharing and public pressure can have a direct impact on the unjust and violent policies of the war on drugs. We have the power to change things for the better, and we have to use it. Simply sharing videos is not enough, however. We need to consistently engage anyone and everyone on the issues arising from the prohibition of marijuana, and keep doing so until the truth is impossible to ignore. This is a good start!
Encouraging news from the City of Brotherly Love today: Philadelphia’s new district attorney and members of the state Supreme Court are taking steps to remove criminal penalties for people arrested with up to 30 grams (or a little more than an ounce) of marijuana. Under the new approach, those caught with marijuana would face a possible fine, but receive no criminal conviction.
“The goal,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “is to sweep about 3,000 small-time marijuana cases annually out of the main court system, freeing prosecutors and judges to devote time to more serious crimes. The diverted cases amount to about 5 percent of the caseload in criminal court.”
But in a frustrating case of two steps forward, one step back, a Philly police spokesman tells the paper, “We’re not going to stop locking people up … our officers are trained to do that. Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that’s up to the D.A. We can’t control that. Until they legalize it, we’re not going to stop.”
What a nuanced view.
Maybe someone should tell that guy how police in Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, and more than a dozen other cities have followed orders to make marijuana a “lowest law enforcement priority” with few complications or adverse consequences. Except, you know, for police having to focus their efforts on more serious crimes.
In any case, decriminalizing marijuana in Philadelphia—the sixth most populous city in the United States—would be a major boon for marijuana policy reform efforts in cities all across the country. Let’s hope it happens.