NOPD recruits won't be disqualified for past weed use as city seeks to boost hiring
Recruits must still pass a drug test if selected for the academy and abstain from drug use while employed
By Matt Sledge
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Police Department's ban on recent marijuana use for police recruits went up in smoke under a rule change unanimously approved by the Civil Service Commission on Monday.
The department requested the new policy as it struggles to attract new cops. While it's unlikely to reverse steep staff shortages by itself, it's a symbolic shift for a city that only recently doled out long prison sentences for pot possession.
Under the new policy, prospective police recruits won't be automatically disqualified if they have used marijuana within the past year. However, they must still pass a drug test if selected for the academy and abstain from drug use while employed.
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Police officials hope the new policy will expand their recruiting pool. Since the pandemic began, the department has dipped below 1,000 cops for the first time in decades. At the same time, homicides have soared to the point where New Orleans is on track to be the nation's murder capital this year.
In a letter requesting the change, Ferguson noted that numerous cities have already removed marijuana use from their list of automatic disqualifiers, including Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and New York City.
Ferguson also noted that a growing list of states have legalized recreational marijuana use. In recent years, the NOPD has increasingly recruited cops outside Louisiana. Recreational marijuana use remains illegal in Louisiana, although City Council ordinances have effectively decriminalized personal use in the city.
"We don't want that to be the reason why we're not able to get some candidates, because they may be from a state where that was legal," said Jonette Williams, an NOPD deputy chief.
The new recruiting policy appears likely to receive a warm welcome from the Council, whose members have called for both beefed-up police recruiting and relaxed standards regarding pot use.
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