Shreveport Councilman John Nickelson talks about legislation - co-authored with Councilwoman Tabatha Taylor - to reform the city's marijuana laws.

Nickelson says his experiences as a lawyer are the genesis of his desire to change the current laws, specifically what he sees as unequal justice. "(Those experiences) really caused me to think twice about the way we enforce laws against marijuana possession. For whatever reason they are not enforced evenly against all members of society.

"The system...delivers very unequal justice. This legislation that Councilwoman Taylor and I have cosponsored is a step toward addressing that problem."

The Nickelson / Taylor measure, to be introduced at Tuesday's regular council session, would only include people in possession of fourteen (14) grams or less of the drugs. If approved, the proposal would be enforced by use of summons in lieu of an arrest. The changes, if passed, do not impact anyone in possession of less than 14 grams or any person possession synthetic cannabinoids or if the person is under the age of 18.

If a defendant upon whom a fine has been imposed under this Section alleges indigency, or otherwise fails to pay the imposed fine, the Court must first determine whether the defendant has willfully refused to pay or make bona fide efforts to legally acquire resources to pay; if defendant has not willfully refused to pay and has made bona fide efforts to attempt to pay the fine, the Court shall use its discretion to fashion alternative penalties other than imprisonment, including installment payments or community service. Imprisonment, and/or any other alternative penalties that impose restrictive treatment on defendants greater than they otherwise would have received under this Section if not for their indigency, are prohibited.

The proposed legislation could be voted on by the Council as early as their next meeting on March 23.


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