Little Rock proposal would make minor pot offenses low-priority

Minor weed offenses could become the lowest priority for Little Rock police if a city director's proposal is accepted.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — A Little Rock city director wants to make misdemeanor marijuana offenses the lowest priority for little rock police. Ken Richardson is finalizing a proposal now. He’s following similar proposals already passed in Fayetteville and Eureka Springs.

"These arrests are impacting people’s ability to get employment," Richardson said.

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Richardson wants offenders of minor marijuana charges to have more opportunities for well-paying jobs. He also believes these charges add to overcrowding jails if the offender can’t pay bail.

"This is not an attempt to micromanage the police department, this is a policy decision to hopefully help reconnect people to our society," Richardson said.

His proposal would make investigation, citation and arrests for misdemeanor marijuana offenses the lowest priority of Little Rock police. The rule would not affect how offenders are prosecuted.

Under AR law, the following marijuana offenses are class A misdemeanors. Other offenses are felonies.

- possession without intent to distribute of less than 4 ounces

- possession with intent to distribute of less than 14 grams

- delivery of fewer than 14 grams to anyone without at least 4 prior drug delivery convictions

- manufacture of fewer than 14 grams

intent to distribute is assumed if a person meets any one of the following requirements:

(1) The person possesses the means to weigh and separate a Schedule VI controlled substance

(2) The person possesses a record indicating a drug-related transaction

(3) The Schedule VI controlled substance is separated and packaged in a manner to facilitate delivery

(4) The person possesses a firearm that is in the immediate physical control of the person at the time of the possession of the Schedule VI controlled substance

(5) The person possesses at least two (2) other controlled substances in any amount

(6) Other relevant and admissible evidence that contributes to the proof that a person's purpose was to deliver a Schedule VI controlled substance.

“It’s a slap on the wrist, it’s a minimal fine, and it’s no jail time," Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said.

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He said he doesn't think

According to Little Rock police, minor marijuana offenses are already a low priority.

“Go ask any cop out on the streets," Jegley said. "Do they see it? Yea. Do they make it a priority? No."

Little Rock police provided the number of marijuana-related charges over the past several years. These numbers had to be pulled from two different sources. The 2013 to 2015 figures come from our submission to Arkansas Crime Information Center. The 2016 and 2017 figures were queried out of the police department's Records Management System. This could partly explain the drastic increase. There is no distinction between felony or misdemeanor offenses in these figures.

2013 – 454

2014 – 459

2015 – 392

2016 – 768

2017 – 824