A bill that greatly reduces the penalties for so-called "personal use" marijuana amounts in Louisiana is now a law.
“I have signed HB 652, which contrary to the narrative developed in the press and elsewhere, does not decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, 14 grams or less. Instead, anyone convicted of this crime will now be subject to a maximum penalty of $100 instead of being exposed to parish prison time," the Governor said this morning. "This is not a decision I took lightly. In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly. This measure passed Louisiana’s Legislature with bipartisan support following a robust discussion of the toll of over incarceration on our people and our state. Taking this action is another step forward for Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts.”
The bill, authored by state Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, removes 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 brings 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 removes the jail time for a first-offense 14 grams or less convictions, and fixes the fine of up to $100 for subsequent convictions of that level. It also requires 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 the final law, Glover's bill or the digest, 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.
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