After over a year of frustrations and finger-pointing, pardons for around ten thousand people who were convicted of simple possession of marijuana in New Orleans since 2010 — which were granted by the City Council in August of 2021 — may soon actually be reflected on peoples’ criminal records.
Municipal Court judges met last week with a representative from City Council President Helena Moreno’s office to discuss finally implementing a procedure to enter the pardons as a minute entry in anyone’s record who should have been granted one by the ordinance — though the next steps to get it done are still being ironed out.
When the pardon ordinance was passed, it was meant to address the harms caused by years of punitive and racially biased enforcement of marijuana possession in the city, and was touted as “historic” by Moreno, who sponsored the measure. Advocates hoped the new law would facilitate expungements of old marijuana convictions, and remove the barriers some people face when applying for jobs, housing, and other services.
But the ordinance did not delineate a clear process for how those pardons were supposed to be reflected in an individual’s record. While pardons could always be granted by the City Council to individuals, as part of the pardon ordinance the Council changed the law granting them authority to grant blanket pardons for a whole class of convictions for the first time.
As recently as this summer, Municipal…