Minneapolis' penalties for small-scale marijuana possession would be brought in line with state statute under a City Council proposal to be presented Friday.
The change would eliminate a discrepancy between city ordinance, which classifies possession of a small amount of marijuana as a misdemeanor, and state statute, which defines it as a petty misdemeanor. Petty misdemeanors are technically not a "crime" under state statute, meaning offenders are not imprisoned and the punishment cannot exceed $300.
The practical effect is likely to be limited, however, since City Attorney Susan Segal said police officers typically cite the state statute. "To my knowledge, at least while I've been here, it's never been charged under the city ordinance," she said.
The change is being authored by Council Members Andrew Johnson and Jacob Frey.
"It's ridiculous that anybody could be arrested for possessing a joint in our city," Johnson said. "Nobody should have to face that risk."
Frey said pot possession cases are generally charged under the state statute, but this eliminates the option of a higher charge.
"It reduces discretion," Frey said. "And negative permanent marks on a record should be reserved for offenses that are injurious to society."
Attorney Tom Gallagher, who is on the board of Minnesota NORML, said the Minneapolis Park Police — a separate entity from the city police — charged one of his clients last year for misdemeanor marijuana possession under the city's ordinance.
The court ultimately convicted his client under the state statute instead. His client, a juvenile, was also convicted of misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession.