LR City Director Pushing to Make Marijuana Arrests Low Priority

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock City Director Ken Richardson is working on a push to make marijuana arrests a low priority.

He told our reporter Price McKeon getting a city law like that passed will be “very challenging,” but it is a challenge he is willing to take on because he says Little Rock needs it. 

We found mixed ideas about the ordinance when we went to Ward 2 in Little Rock. 

“It’s like no. I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Wuykisha Harris of Little Rock told us. 

We found opposite opinions. 

“Me personally, I don’t smoke, but I don’t think that would hurt for him to get that law passed,” Jamilah Scott of Little Rock told us.  

In Southwest Little Rock we talked with people who displayed mixed emotions and ideas about a push to make misdemeanor marijuana arrests a low priority. 

“I know a lot of people with petty marijuana arrests that could be contributing more to society but actually like servicing substantial time or pay substantial fines for just little things like marijuana,” Al Moore, of Little Rock said.

Right before we met these people running errands near Baseline and Geyer Springs, we met with the city director representing that ward/area, who is making the push. 

“I’m not telling my constituents that I’m encouraging people to smoke marijuana. I’m just saying from a policy standpoint we need to have a shift on how we need to address that as an issue,” said Director Ken Richardson, Little Rock Director for Ward 2.

Going through the emails Richardson sent to the city attorney, he gave marijuana arrests statistics for the city from 2011 to 2016. He cited a national news article at one point. He cited the increase as “dramatic.” 

“Right now we’re spending too much manpower or woman-power with the police department targeting those kinds of criminal activity rather than looking at some of the more, I think, troubling criminal activity in our community,” Richardson says. 

Richardson explains nearly 10 years ago Fayetteville adopted this the Lowest Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Priority Police Ordinance. He said he wants to use that to help guide drafting an ordinance to discuss.

“One of the things I’m trying to do is something similar or something along those lines to help us adopt the sme type of policy,” Richardson says.

He says it’s about shifting tax money to be used to help the community stay safe and focusing on the rise in violent crime, while keeping non-violent offenders out of jail.  

“It’s not an attempt to micromanage the police department, I have no experience, no expertise in policing, but I think it may be a good policy for us to adopt as a city,” Richardson says.  

Richardson said he has had members of the community approach him about this topic. It comes at a time when medical marijuana in Arkansas continues to make headlines.  

“Me personally I don’t smoke that so I’m really neutral about the situation because there are more things you should be [sic] arrests and the police has to worry about on a day to day basis,” Scott says.

It’s just a push that’s starting the conversation around town. 

“I think he should go back and try to find another solution because that’s not it,” Harris says.

We found people with both opinions at the shopping center running errands on Thursday night near Baseline and Geyer Springs Road.  

Director Richardson said he feels he has the support from people in the community to get this on the agenda for the board of director to discuss. 

We learned the ordinance has not crafted yet. Richardson said he wants to get other board of directors support and work on crafting an ordinance that would pass the board’s approval. 

He said he hopes to have it on the agenda in January. 

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