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Mpls. Councilmembers Want Decreased Consequences For Minor Pot Possession

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A push is underway to downgrade minor possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a petty misdemeanor in the city of Minneapolis.

If you are caught with pot in Minneapolis right now, you could face a $200 fine, jail time and a criminal record.

City Councilmembers Jacob Frey and Andrew Johnson will introduce a measure that would eliminate arrest and jail time.

They believe a change in law could help get rid of some discrimination.

"We're trying to reduce the negative permanent impacts associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana," Frey said.

Minneapolis City Councilmember Jacob Frey
Jacob Frey (credit: CBS)

He wants Minneapolis to fall in line with a state ordinance that treats minor pot possession like getting a traffic ticket.

"We got a state ordinance that classifies it as a petty misdemeanor," Frey said. "What we're looking at doing is getting rid of the city ordinance for the most part that classifies it as a full-blown misdemeanor."

Johnson will help introduce the measure with hopes it will lead to less discrimination when it comes to arresting people for marijuana possession.

Minneapolis City Councilmember Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson (credit: CBS)

"We need to get in line with the state, with the rest of our cities out there so it's not some over-the-top punishment," Johnson said. "When you have the risk that you can be charged with a misdemeanor for possession of a joint and it can go on your record and then every time you go and try to get a job you have to check off, 'Yes, I have a record,' that's just not right. And especially when the law is being disproportionately applied to people of color."

The American Civil Liberties Union conducted a study in 2010 that said black citizens were nearly eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

"Negative permanent marks on your record should be reserved for actions that are really injurious to society, that hurt society as a whole," Frey said.

Both men hope a change in law will help eliminate disparities in arrest.

"This is a racial disparity issue, this is an issue of finding employment in the long term," Frey said.

The full council will hear Frey and Johnson's notice of intent Friday. The measure will be introduced at the Jan. 29 meeting, where it will head to committee to be heard.

Both men say they believe they have support from the rest of the council for it to pass.

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