Jackson councilman pushing to decriminalize marijuana use - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson councilman pushing to decriminalize marijuana use

Left to right: MS ACLU Executive Director Jennifer Riley Collins; Jackson Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks; Jackson Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps; JPD Officer Juan Cloy; Mississippi Cannabis Coalition Executive Director Dave Singletary Left to right: MS ACLU Executive Director Jennifer Riley Collins; Jackson Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks; Jackson Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps; JPD Officer Juan Cloy; Mississippi Cannabis Coalition Executive Director Dave Singletary
Councilman Stamps hopes to decriminalize marijuana. Others present at the press conference hope to legalize recreational use altogether. Councilman Stamps hopes to decriminalize marijuana. Others present at the press conference hope to legalize recreational use altogether.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Councilman De'Keither Stamps is pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana.

The Councilman for Ward 4 presented an Ordinance amending Chapter 86 of the City's Code at a Council meeting Tuesday. The ordinance limits the maximum penalty for possession of 30 grams or less of the drug.to a $100 fine, with no prison time.

"The way it's written right now, it's just like a seatbelt violation," said Councilman Stamps. "Every time, it's the same fine over and over again. Now, that's not to say that in the future we might have a multiple offense clause, or regulate it in some other way."

The Councilman says trillions of dollars are being spent on the "War on Drugs" which he believes is not working.

"We need our police officers to be focused on major crime: murder, opioids, and all those types of measures, so that we can be more effective in our crime fighting, and preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," said Councilman Stamps.

Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks is supporting the measure as well.

"One, we won't have an over-crowded jail down there. Number two, so that the focus of our police officers would change. And number three, it's still illegal!" said Councilman Banks, explaining how he came to back the ordinance.

The ACLU did make a few recommendations for small amendments to the ordinance, such as avoiding situations where the $100 citation becomes more complicated for low-income offenders."

"Even if a person is fined, if they cannot pay the fine...that person could be harshly penalized...Do not penalize people for being poor."

Former Assistant Canton Police Chief Juan Cloy, who is now an officer at the Jackson Police Department also spoke.

"Most of you all don't know that police officers have a technique that we can use, which is called a 'Field Release'. Which is, we can arrest somebody so to speak, but on paper - we write them a ticket. So that's basically the same thing we're talking about now."

"This is not something that's worth jail time, and worth spending - there is an amount of $50.62 that we pay as taxpayers, per day {on each inmate}," said Councilman Banks.

MSNewsNow reporter Marie Edinger asked Councilman Stamps, "What does this mean for people who are already in jail?" 

"We're going to work on that," answered the Councilman. "We're going to work with our legal department and our prosecutors to go down that road, because user-level amounts of marijuana - you shouldn't be incarcerated for that."

The Councilman continued, "What we're doing is turning users into criminals. We're taking users off the streets, and turning them into criminals."

Other police departments in Atlanta and Washington, DC, have said that re-prioritizing their police departments to focus on violent crimes has been productive.

"This is the first step in the direction for justice reform in the state of Mississippi, and also to relieve supression of certain minorities in the state that are unfairly singled out by this war on drugs," said Dave Singletary, the Executive Director of a group called the Mississippi Cannabis Coalition.

Councilman Stamps says more work needs to be done on the ordinance, and that this is a first step. With approval from the City Council, the ordinance could be approved within two weeks.

The Councilman says he hopes other state law enforcement agencies will follow suit.

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