A Jackson city councilman introduced a proposal Tuesday that would decriminalize marijuana.
Ward 4 Councilman De’Keither Stamps said if approved, the ordinance would keep low-level offenders out of jail. Stamps said people who are caught with 30 grams of marijuana or less would be given a ticket and fined no more than $100 without jail time.
Stamps said Jackson police resources are better used elsewhere.
“We need our police officers to be focused on major crime — murder, opioids, all types of measures — so we can be more effective in our crime fighting,” Stamps said.
Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of Mississippi’s American Civil Liberties Union, said black marijuana users are 77 percent more likely to be arrested than white users, although they use at the same rate.
“A criminal history built on marijuana convictions can categorize defendants as career criminals for sentencing purposes and, in subsequent cases, triggering harsh mandatory sentencing,” Riley-Collins said.
Stamps said he spoke with officials in Washington and Atlanta, where decriminalization has already happened, and learned that marijuana use there remained the same as before it was decriminalized.
Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks said the ordinance does not endorse smoking weed.
“One, we won’t have an overcrowded jail down there. Two, so that the focus of our police officers can be prioritized, and three, it’s still illegal,” Banks said.
Council members said the ordinance will be on next week’s agenda for a potential vote.
City leaders said there is no ordinance that addresses simple possession of marijuana.