The Jackson City Council voted Tuesday to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in the city.
Council members unanimously supported an amendment to a city ordinance that will reduce penalties for the possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.
The amendment will also reduce fines to $100 and prohibit jail time for the offense, the Clarion Ledger reported.
Councilman De’Keither Stamps, who drafted the amendment, said he wants to reduce punishment that “unfairly stigmatizes the offender” and put an “undue burden on the city in regards to jail costs.”
“I join Councilman Stamps in support of this measure,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said.
“We have to take an aggressive — dare I say ‘radical’ — approach not just to the law but how we impose penalties. We have to make sure they are commensurate with the crime.”
Stamps called the amendment a first step in dealing with “a system that turns a user into a criminal.”
Lumumba and Stamps said they would lead an education outreach effort on the ordinance change.
Stamps offered the change at the city’s Jan. 30 council meeting. He said online polls of his ward’s constituents have shown overwhelming support for the measure.
Councilman Kenneth Sokes wasn’t present for the vote, although he expressed support for the ordinance amendment in a previous meeting.
Council Vice President Melvin Priester Jr. made a point to note, while he’s in support of decriminalizing marijuana, he stands against the use of the drug.
“I think we have to be careful here. We may support this for a number of reasons, but I want to make it very clear I do not support the use of marijuana by people under 21. It’s still illegal,” he said.
The amendment is similar to city ordinances in New Orleans and Memphis that have decriminalized marijuana possession as several areas of the country have legalized or made marijuana available for medicinal use.
Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, commended Stamp’s proposal when it was first announced, saying small-scale marijuana possession laws are often unequally enforced. She referenced a study her organization did that concluded African Americans are arrested up to four times as often as white Americans for low-level marijuana possession despite statistics showing roughly equal use.