Low-level marijuana possession violations will no longer be prosecuted in Jefferson County (population: 771,000), according to statements made by County Attorney Mike O’Connell.
He cited research identifying racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests as a reason for instituting the change in policy. “For me to truly be a minister of justice, I cannot sit idly by when communities of color are treated differently,” he said.
Under the new plan, cases involving the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will no longer be prosecuted if that is the primary charge against the defendant. The office will continue to prosecute cases involving marijuana trafficking, cultivation, use in public, or drugged driving.
The pronouncement follows the adoption of a Louisville municipal ordinance in June that made the prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority.”
Jefferson County’s new policy is similar to those of adopted recently by municipal prosecutors from several other major cities, including Baltimore, Maryland; St. Louis, Missouri; and Norfolk, Virginia, among others.