Clipped From The Delta Democrat-Times
Lighter pot law pushed J A C K S O N C U P I Mississippi Legislature will luwe to d e a l w i t h a n o t decriminalize or at least reduce the penalties for first offense possession of small amounts of marijuana, it reported today. State Reps. Doug Abraham of Greenville and Fred Banks of told the Memphis Commercial they would co -sponsor legislation aimed at reducing the penalty to Tine for persons caught with up otince of marijuana. The maximum penally for the misdemeanor offense now is a $1,000 fine and-or a year jail. Backers of the proposed legislation uiatntni n ed, I Hwe ver, lessening penalties in minor possession cases would free lawmen to concentrate the growing hard traffic in Mississippi. They said they would favor tying bill to a companion measure that would deal more harshly with hard drug pushers. Cleveland Insurance Executive Doug Tims, the state coordinator of the National Organization for reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said would ask the legislature to eliminate the criminal penalties for silmple marijuana possession. He said his organization would back the "Oregon approach." which sets a $100 "civil" fine for first possession of small amounts of marijuana, similar to traffic violation. Ken Fairly, the director of the Bureau of Narcotics, said he could support an approach similar to New Mexico, where offenses are treated on a graduated scale but he was opposed to decriminaliTOtion. "We need to let people know it violation," he said. He also said favors mandatory 20-year prison terms with no parole for dealers hard drugs. Abraham and Rep. Dempsey Levi Gautier co-sponsored a WU during 1976 legislative session aimed at reducing the penalties for marijuana possession but it died on a tie the House Judiciary "A" Committee. I^evi said he wanted to lest the before backing similar legislation in 1977 because, "I don't want to waste my time on stuff that can't get (he legislature." Abraham said, however, he was " p o s i t i v e l y c o reintroducing the decriminaHzation bill. He contended young marijuana users today are "doing something research experts say now is far harmful than the scotch their parents are drinking."