These marijuana cases will no longer be prosecuted by the Jefferson County (KY) attorney

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Joe Sonka, Louisville Courier Journal Published 9:15 a.m. ET Aug. 28, 2019

Possession of a small amount of marijuana will no longer be prosecuted in Jefferson County when that is the only or primary charge, the county attorney’s office will announce Wednesday.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell is expected to detail the new strategy at a 10 a.m. news conference, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The policy will call for his office to no longer prosecute possession of marijuana cases involving one ounce or less, so long as that is the only charge or the most serious charge against the defendant.

The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office also will decline to prosecute cases involving possession of drug paraphernalia when that is clearly only used for marijuana consumption.

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However, the new policy will not affect marijuana cases involving trafficking, cultivation, driving under the influence, public consumption or intoxication.

O’Connell is expected defend the policy as a means to find the most efficient use of his office’s limited resources and work toward equal enforcement of laws along racial lines, citing statistics showing that black individuals are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession compared to white individuals.

A Courier Journal investigation of 21,607 marijuana possession cases in 2017 found that African Americans accounted for two-thirds of those charged, with black drivers cited for possession at six times the rate of white people.

This disparity on marijuana charges along racial lines occurs despite national studies showing that both groups smoke marijuana at roughly the same rate.

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In June, Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance by a 15-9 vote making arrests for possession of half an ounce or less of marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority for officers.

Kentucky statutes classify marijuana possession as a misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in jail and a $250 fine, though a law passed in 2012 allows individuals to have such charges voided from their record after 60 days.

This story will be updated.

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