City weighs marijuana ordinance

A proposed amendment would align penalties for marijuana possession with state policy.

by Raj Chaduvula

Pending Minneapolis City Council approval, marijuana possession will no longer be an offense under Minneapolis ordinances.
Instead, the city would operate in accordance to state law. 
A proposed amendment would remove marijuana from city law, making possession an offense under state law only. The Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee pushed the amendment forward Monday for the full council’s approval on Friday
Currently, marijuana possession in public is defined as a misdemeanor under city law. Under state law, possessing 42.5 grams or less is punishable as a petty misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $200. Amounts larger than 42.5 grams are considered a felony with prison time up to 30 years, based on the amount.
The amendment would remove the discrepancy between city and state law, said Ward 3 Council member Jacob Frey, who co-authored the amendment. He added that city officers usually follow state law for marijuana possession already.
Sensible Minnesota, a nonprofit advocacy group, has been discussing how to decriminalize marijuana with the City Council for the past five years, said Kurtis Hanna, co-founder of the group.  
Hanna said Sensible Minnesota asked council members to remove possession of marijuana from the city’s list of misdemeanors. 
Misdemeanors go on criminal records and can make it difficult for people to get loans and leases, Hanna said. 
Hanna and Frey said they hope possession eventually becomes a ticketable offense under state law.
“Permanent dark marks [on someone’s criminal record] should be reserved for infractions injurious to society,” Frey said. 
Ward 12 Council member Andrew Johnson, co-author of the amendment, said the City Council will likely approve the proposed amendmenton Friday.