A longtime employee of a popular New Orleans restaurant is off the hook for a felony cannabis charge that could have taken more than 10 years of his life after a group of potential jurors repeatedly spoke out against cannabis criminalization.
According to Nola.com, Jabar Kensey was arrested on a felony count of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. Police found an ounce of weed split into 17 baggies on his person during a streetside stop on Bourbon Street in January. Not willing to take the charge lying down, Kensey stressed his innocence and decided to fight the charge at trial. But before he could face a judge, prosecutors realized they were fighting an uphill battle.
During a day of jury selection last week, Kensey’s attorney Stavros Panagoulopoulos said that the prosecution repeatedly dismissed jury candidates who voiced strong opinions against cannabis criminalization.
Eventually, so many people were rejected that the day’s jury pool was empty before the required six jurors and an alternate were selected. It was at that point that Ad hoc Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron stopped the proceedings altogether.
Gallery — Photos of Cops Smoking Weed:
“I think the District Attorney’s Office heard their sentiments,” Panagoulopoulos told Nola.com. “Given the current climate in our country with regards to marijuana, I think this was an appropriate solution.”
Instead of facing trial, the New Orleans DA’s Office agreed to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor in exchange for a plea of guilty, with Kensey now agreeing to spend the next 12 weekends in jail and forfeit the $100 he was carrying during the arrest.
Louisiana has been slow to act on cannabis reform, but as the state moves to slowly expand its nascent medical marijuana program, Kensey’s case is a loud reminder that the will of the people can still outshine the shade of stubborn legislators.
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