A bill that would greatly reduce the penalties for so-called "personal use" marijuana amounts in Louisiana is now on its way to the Governor's desk.
The bill, offered by state Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, would remove the possibility of any jail time for possession of 14 grams or less of pot. As a comparison, an empty aluminum soda can weighs about 14 grams. This bill would bring state law in line with the marijuana laws in the state's largest municipalities: Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport.
The bill passed the House 67 to 25, and passed the Senate 20 to 17.
According to the digest of Glover's bill, current Louisiana law provides for criminal penalties starting with the first conviction of possession of marijuana.
If someone possesses 14 grams or less, they face up to $300 in fines and up to 15 days in jail for the first conviction.For possession of more than 14 grams, the fine goes up to $500 and up to six months in jail.
Glover's bill would remove the jail time for a first-offense 14 grams or less convictions, and fix the fine of up to $100 for subsequent convictions of that level. It also would require the court to determine if the person convicted is poor, and if so, allow a payment plan or community service, if necessary so they can pay the fine - instead of throwing them in jail.
"If an offender has not willfully refused to pay and has made bona fide efforts to attempt to pay the fine imposed, the court shall use its discretion to alternatives, including installment payments or community service," the digest states.
The bill also requires the use of a summons - basically like a traffic ticket - to enforce the "personal use" amount violation.
If you'd like to read Glover's bill, the digest or keep up with its progress through the legislature, click here.
Louisiana's three largest cities - New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport - have passed similar measures. The most recent was Shreveport, which revised its marijuana possession law in March, lowering the penalties to $50 or community service. Baton Rouge dropped the penalities to less than $100 and no jail time back in 2018, and New Orleans dropped the penalties to $100 and below, also without jail time and a summons, in 2016.
There are several other marijuana-related bills that were introduced this year, but none has obtained as much traction as Glover's bill. One, HB699 by state Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, would have completely decriminalize marijuana in the state. It set up regulation and taxing processes for the growing, selling and purchase of pot. It failed in May.