The Board of Directors of Little Rock, Arkansas plan to vote on Tuesday on making marijuana offenses in the city a low priority for law enforcement. Under a proposed ordinance from City Director Ken Richardson of Ward 2, misdemeanor marijuana crimes would become the lowest law enforcement priority for the city.
According to the proposed ordinance, “law enforcement resources would be better spent in programs that deal with serious and violent crimes.” The proposal also notes that arrests for misdemeanor marijuana offenses “often result in the loss of employment, educational opportunities, or a combination of both.”
“For the most part, if you have more of these types of arrest, you can lose Pell grants, you can have problems with housing, employment, so there are a number of negatives effects it can have you and your family if you have these kind of arrest on your record,” Richardson told local media.
Second Time Around
Tuesday will be the second time the Little Rock Board of Directors considers Richardson’s ordinance to make misdemeanor marijuana crimes the city’s lowest law enforcement priority. He also introduced the ordinance last year, but the Board of Directors failed to approve the measure.
The ordinance was opposed by former mayor Mark Stodola and former police chief Kenton Buckner. At the time, Buckner said that the proposal wasn’t necessary because low-level marijuana crimes were already a low priority for local law enforcement officers.
“We already manage those kinds of discretionary issues that we already have on the front end because we know we have limited jail space,” said Buckner.
Richardson replied that if the enforcement of minor marijuana crimes was already a low priority for law enforcement in the city, there should be no problem with codifying the policy.
“If it’s already a priority what the harm in having that in writing?” Richardson asked. “No one has explained that to me yet. I mean what’s the harm of having it in writing if it’s a principle we’re already operating by?”
But Buckner said that the proposal would unnecessarily tie the hands of police officers.
“One of the pieces of language [in the ordinance] reads that there would be a low priority to investigate; so if we come upon a car that has an odor of marijuana, do we not investigate further to make sure that the individual doesn’t have weapons in the vehicle or some other drugs?” questioned the chief of police. “Those are some of the things that we have concerns about.”