A recent case down in New Orleans highlights what has been a steady trend lately in America: more and more people think marijuana possession charges are too harsh.
The case involves Jabar Kensey, a server at the renowned New Orleans restaurant Antoine's. Kensey was caught with an ounce of marijuana on Bourbon street and charged with possession with intent to distribute, which is a felony. If convicted as charged, Kensey would have faced 15 to 20 years in prison because prosecutors could have treated him as a “triple bill” offender since he has two prior felony convictions—one for the same charge and one for burglary.
New Orlean's DA Office Background
New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office has been known to implement the “triple bill” offender status far more often than other Louisiana district attorney offices. Applying the “triple bill” offense means putting low-level offenders in jail for decades for non-violent offenses. Several years ago, Cannizzaro's office convicted a man to 13 years in prison after he was caught with two marijuana joints while riding a bicycle. That man served seven years and was released on parole in 2018.
This practice of Cannizzaro's office aligns with what many critics say is a harsh reality: these archaic laws target people of color far more often than other ethnicities in Louisiana.
But during the jury selection process of Kensey's trial, potential jurors one after another were dismissed because they stated they didn't think marijuana should be illegal. Twenty out of the pool of 25 potential jurors were dropped, and Judge Waldron finally stopped the jury selection process. Prosecutors decided to drop Kensey's charge to a misdemeanor, and he agreed to forfeit the $100 he had on him when he was arrested and spend 12 weekend days in jail.
Kensey's attorney Stavros Panagoulopoulos said in a statement, “I think the District Attorney's Office heard (the jury's) sentiments. Given the current climate in our country with regards to marijuana, I think this was an appropriate solution.” Marijuana is legal in ten states.
Criminal justice reform advocates hope that Kensey's case could be the beginning to ending New Orleans' long history of over-incarceration over marijuana possession.
Possession Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is legal in Washington for adults over the age of 21, but possession of more than an ounce is still a misdemeanor. If you have been charged for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, a skilled defense attorney can make all the difference in your case. Call the Law Offices of Steve Karimi at 206-621-8777 or use their contact form to get started on a free consultation of your case.