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story.lead_photo.caption Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson is shown in this file photo beside a portion of his proposed ordinance that would have made misdemeanor marijuana arrests the lowest priority for the Little Rock Police Department.

The majority of members on the Little Rock Board of Directors turned down a proposal Tuesday to create a new policy that would have made misdemeanor marijuana arrests the lowest priority of the Little Rock Police Department.

Police Chief Kenton Buckner said that while he appreciated the intent behind Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson's proposed ordinance, he was against it because of the unintended consequences that would occur as a result.

Mayor Mark Stodola also spoke against the ordinance and said Pulaski County prosecutor Larry Jegley wasn't in favor.

The board heeded the concerns of those officials and rejected the proposal with a 6-2 vote Tuesday night. Voting in favor were Richardson and Vice Mayor Kathy Webb. Voting against were City Directors Doris Wright, Joan Adcock, B.J. Wyrick, Gene Fortson, Erma Hendrix and Dean Kumpuris. City Director Capi Peck voted present, and City Director Lance Hines was absent.

Residents showed up in large numbers to beg the board to vote for Richardson's proposal. The boardroom was overflowing, with residents standing in the aisle and lined up out into the hallway. Twelve signed up to speak about the proposal.

Richardson said he wanted police to stop making arrests on low-level marijuana charges against adults because it wastes time and taxpayer money and often results in the loss of employment and educational opportunities for the offender.

But Buckner said that once word got out that officers couldn't do anything if they smelled marijuana on a person, criminals in the city would take advantage of that. He added that the smell of marijuana gives officers probable cause to search a vehicle, and sometimes those searches lead to arrests on bigger charges, such as felon in possession of a gun, or drug busts.

Buckner also sought to knock down Richardson's assertion that misdemeanor possession arrests contributed to jail overcrowding.

"I challenge you to find anyone sitting in the Pulaski County jail today solely for use of marijuana," Buckner said last week when the ordinance was first discussed by the board.

Attorney Omavi Shukur spoke Tuesday to say he accepted that challenge. He gave the board the court docket sheets for 20 individuals who were arrested by Little Rock police and sentenced to jail time solely for possession of a misdemeanor amount of marijuana.

"This includes one man who was sentenced to 300 days in jail," Shukur said.

He added: "People cannot get jobs and housing because of these marijuana arrests, and we have a shortage of police officers. This is about a police officer not spending time investigating solely a misdemeanor marijuana offense when there's a domestic violence call, when there's property crime. This is about misplaced priority. ...This is a test to see how responsive our city board is to its constituents. This is a chance for you to be heard. Are you going to ignore the hard proof that people do serve time in jail on misdemeanor marijuana offenses?"

Last year, the Little Rock Police Department made 824 marijuana-possession arrests, according to the department. That includes both misdemeanor and felony offenses. The department's records management system does not distinguish between the levels.

Such arrests have nearly doubled since 2013.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015, such arrests totaled between 390 and 460, but they jumped to 768 in 2016 and more than 800 last year. That's an 81 percent increase in the four-year span.

Both Eureka Springs and Fayetteville instituted low-priority policies for their police departments more than 10 years go after the majority of voters approved the idea via ballot initiatives.

It hasn't affected the number of arrests.

According to Fayetteville Police Department data, the number of marijuana possession arrests was at 402 in 2005, but that was up to 691 last year.

At least 15 other cities in the United States have adopted low-priority policies in regards to marijuana possession. About half of them are in states that have since legalized marijuana completely.

Metro on 06/06/2018

Print Headline: LR board rejects leniency policy for pot arrests

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  • yellowcat
    June 6, 2018 at 8:44 a.m.

    If the car thingy keeps you from lightening up on recreational pot smoking make the proposal with the exception of a vehicle.

  • yellowcat
    June 6, 2018 at 8:48 a.m.

    "I challenge you to find anyone sitting in the Pulaski County jail today solely for use of marijuana," Buckner said last week when the ordinance was first discussed by the board.

    And do we really need a police chief that is obviously this stupid? Folks, that was an irrational man hunting for a reason to oppose something.

  • skeptic1
    June 6, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.

    There are many people in prison in this state for marijuana related charges not to mention those with felonies that restrict their employment, right to vote, and right to possess a firearm. This state uses prisons like factories to provide jobs, Jefferson County case in point.

  • lrprojectmgr
    June 6, 2018 at 9:29 a.m.

    Of those reported 20 people in jail for possession, I wonder how many were on probation or awaiting trial for another crime when arrested.

  • drs01
    June 6, 2018 at 9:40 a.m.

    Richardson, who had his own issues, wanted to make Little Rock a sanctuary city for potheads. Fortunately, it didn't happen despite efforts to make driving around smoking dope seem like no big deal. Dumb ordinance, Richardson.

  • dunk7474
    June 6, 2018 at 10:07 a.m.

    It's okay to have some bozo on alcohol, like the governors son, driving around though. That's right, it's called medical alcohol and we sure think it's okay. Little Rock wants to enforce pot laws so they won't have to deal with the gangs.

  • Nodmcm
    June 6, 2018 at 11:04 a.m.

    During the 1950s, if African-American Arkansans didn't want to drink out of separate water fountains and go to separate bathrooms, they moved up north, where the racism wasn't written into the law (as much). Here in the early 21st century, folks who like marijuana have lots of places to go, where recreational pot is totally legal and sold lawfully in stores. Colorado, Oregon, Washington and California come to mind. Even today, do African-Americans get treated as well in the South as they do up north or out west? So folks who like marijuana may not be any better off in Arkansas or other southern states in fifty or more years. Ronald Reagan said, "Vote with your feet." Good advice, at least for African-Americans and marijuana fans.

  • mrcharles
    June 6, 2018 at 11:27 a.m.

    Are potheads better than the alcoholics that inhabit our politicians and other leading citizens, leading to driving and divorce tragedies?

    mammals who can talk and carry guns like to eat to much, get drunk , do some begottening every chance they get and like to use the herbs and plants given to them in genesis . Why are many on the right against this one particular part of genesis? do they not accept the inerrant word of a entity who can make water without the necessary elements being readily available.

    There is a cry coming up from Israel or Little Rock, that the leaders here not discriminate against these good ole religious folks after all the supreme Court just said they are special and are the judge and jury of their own beliefs to wear like armor against the rest of the polluted USA [ being helped by scott pruitt at the moment].

    If the holly rollers can speak in tongues and roll around on the floor, what is so bad about getting laid back to enjoy the beauty of this world? Please LR leaders dont go against god's word to allow mammals that speak to use the plants created for use by talking mammals.

  • Delta2
    June 6, 2018 at 11:51 a.m.

    Nod, do you ever read anything? There are all kinds of racist acts against African Americans going on above the Mason Dixon Line. It's arguably even worse up north than down here. Ask Dr. Henry Louis Gates, for starters.

  • LRDawg
    June 6, 2018 at 12:52 p.m.

    Fayetteville and Eureka Springs both had this same policy for 10 years.....difference is both those cities are predominantly white. Little Rock isn't, so it can't have the same policies. #WhitePrivilege

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