NEW ORLEANS, La. (Oct. 21, 2019) – Louisiana prosecutors were forced to drop felony marijuana charges against a man after potential jurors balked at criminal charges for cannabis possession.
Police busted Jabar Kensey on Bourbon Street with an ounce of marijuana. The server at New Orleans’ landmark Antoine’s restaurant faced a potential sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison under Louisiana’s “three-strikes” law. Kensey had two prior non-violent convictions.
But the judge was not able to seat a jury because too many potential jurors refused to consider a prison sentence for simple marijuana possession. According to NOLA.com:
Ad hoc Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron halted the selection process after 20 of 25 potential jurors were dropped and no more jurors remained in the day’s pool. Some jurors were let go for other reasons, but Waldron said Wednesday that a “significant” number were dismissed on prosecutors’ challenges. The judge specifically highlighted the jurors who voiced their opinions on “whether or not (marijuana) should be the subject of criminal laws outlawing it.”
Ultimately, prosecutors amended the charges to a misdemeanor under a plea deal. Kensey will still spend 12 weekend days in jail, but he will not face the harsh prison sentence he would have served had he been convicted on a felony charge.
A similar scenario unfolded in Montana in 2015. Prosecutors there also had to settles for a plea deal after the judge could not find one single person willing to sit on a jury and convict him.
Leafly called the situation in New Orleans a “jurors revolt.”
‘People have the power’ isn’t just a song lyric. Know this, my fellow jury-eligible citizens: You have the power to stop the madness.
This is a vivid example of individual actions nullifying a law in effect. By refusing to participate, these would-be jurors made cannabis prohibition impossible to enforce.
We tend to focus on nullification through legislative action. This is an important and effective strategy. But nothing is more effective than individuals simply refusing to comply with unjust, unconstitutional or just unpopular laws.