BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - East Baton Rouge Metro Council members have given the green light to less strict punishments for small amounts of pot but before they celebrate, councilman Trae Welch says not so fast.
While those caught with 14 grams or less of marijuana might only get you a small fine under the new law, Welch said the consequences remain.
"It's still a conviction and you are still having the same problem that you had before," said Welch.
Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul also weighed in on the conversation, saying the proposal could help law enforcement focus more on violent crimes rather than possession.
"It would help us to redirect those resources that we would normally spend making an arrest to other areas," said Paul.
Despite the overwhelming support, Welch maintained approval of the item sends the wrong message and added it could be pushing folks directly to drug dealers.
"The message we sent is that weed is okay and it's not," Welch explained.
"As equally passionate as you are councilman Welch, I'm more passionate because it has destroyed our community," said councilman LaMont Cole.
Cole was a co-author on the proposal and he, like many of the speakers at the meeting, touched on data that suggests incarceration rates for blacks in possession of marijuana greatly outweighs the number of whites behind bars for possession.
That same data shows the number of those using the substance among blacks and whites are about the same.
Cole fired back at Welch's criticism of the proposal, saying what is more dangerous is sending young offenders to jail.
"Think about sending a 17-year-old child to prison with a violent criminal who has raped, murdered and killed people in our community. I think that's a very unsafe place that we're sending people," Cole added.
Just hours after that vote, police released new details on a shooting this week that ended the life of Charles Bowah, 20, and landed two others behind bars. According to investigators, the alleged motive of the shooting was a drug deal gone wrong.
"I don't think you can get a better example of what could happen whenever you send people in to go buy illegal substances," said Welch.
Welch also said he is concerned that Wednesday's 8- 4 vote could have paved the way for more scenes like this one to play out in Baton Rouge.
"It's hard to even put in words how dangerous that is. That's my fear ... that's one of my fears anyway," Welch added.