AR: Little Rock City Board Refuses To De-Emphasize Marijuana Enforcement

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The Little Rock City Board voted 6-2 Tuesday night against a proposal by City Director Ken Richardson to put a low priority on arrests for marijuana possession. A big crowd turned out to support the idea.

Only City Director Kathy Webb voted with Richardson. Lance Hines was absent. Mayor Mark Stodola, Police Chief Kenneth Buckner and Prosecutor Larry Jegley all opposed the idea.

Buckner has overloaded his mouth on the issue, as he is prone to do. Despite making it sound as if simple marijuana arrests are already a low priority, the numbers show that arrests are steadily climbing upward and that, contrary to his assertions, people are booked and jailed and take up meager jail space for simple marijuana possession.

Someday, more marijuana will be on the street legally, thanks to the medical marijuana law. Someday, marijuana possession in Arkansas will be fully legal. I confess, every time I think of a jail cell holding a pot smoker I think of my three home burglaries and numerous car burglaries. One of those burglaries led to the presentation and cashing of a forged check, likely at a bank branch with security cameras. No one has served a day of jail time for those crimes.

Worth reading: Sen. Joyce Elliott’s letter endorsing Richardson’s proposal:

Please be clear: This is not a position I take lightly or one to which I’ve not given considerable thought for several years. This ordinance is rooted in the obligation that “when we know better, we do better.” We know now that the so-called War on Drugs is a failure strewn with what I pray is unintended collateral damage, damage that has had lasting negative impact on the lives of individuals, families and neighborhoods.

Chief among but not limited to my considerations is the disparate racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic impact present practices and laws have had. I accept that such laws and enforcement were well intentioned, but the evidence is clear those good intentions have not resulted in outcomes that outweigh the merits passing this ordinance because we know better. In that spirit, during the 2017 General Assembly, I offered SB237 to require racial impact statements under certain conditions when the legislature passes or changes laws. The measure passed the Senate but unfortunately not the House. Fortunately, via this ordinance, we have an opportunity to do better in our city.

It’s been suggested Dir. Richardson’s ordinance is not needed because the referenced offenses are already treated as proposed. In that case, I am very encouraged you will put into the law what is purportedly practiced. Why is that important? Reciprocal communication between the police and the community. It’s not enough if none of us can pull up the law and read it. Such omission leads to confusion and lack of trust for no good reason.