LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The City of Little Rock is changing how it looks at marijuana. After a majority vote, board members agreed to consider misdemeanor marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority.
Director Ken Richardson, Ward 2, sponsored the measure, saying the goal was to cut back on arrests for minor marijuana offenses and turn enforcement into a cite and release system.
But opponents say that’s already being done and the move could send a confusing message about marijuana and what’s legal in the city.
Richardson made it clear that the measure does not legalize or decriminalize marijuana – just suggests that other types of crimes like violent offenses be prioritized.
According to Richardson the measure simply deals with how marijuana misdemeanors are enforced and prosecuted, saying, “It’s an issue where we’re patrolling certain neighborhoods certain ways.”
He adds that the goal is to protect young adults from damaging Marijuana arrests and convictions – which stay with them for life.
Board members and those in attendance also brought up the fact that many young adults lose out on job opportunities and school scholarships because of minor marijuana offenses on their record.
Richardson is also concerned that these types of arrests block up the legal system and our county jail, adding, “There are people in our jail, our county jail, taking up valuable jail space for marijuana arrests.”
But Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey disagrees, arguing that the cite and release enforcement Richardson is suggesting is something they already do.
“The Little Rock Police Department has not arrested anyone physically for the sole purpose of small amounts of Marijuana in several years,” Humphrey said after taking the podium.
He also added that prioritizing certain types of crime could open a “Pandora’s box” and all crime should be a priority.
Also concerned with the ordinance was Vice Mayor Lance Hines. During debate, Hines claimed that the measure seems like a green light for recreational marijuana use in the city, and that those who want to smoke marijuana should pick up a medical marijuana card and do so legally.
“This sends the completely wrong message for this body and the city as a whole,” he said.
The ordinance passed after a vote of 7 to 3.
The full ordinance can be read HERE.