Bill To Reduce Marijuana Penalties Passes The Louisiana Senate

Yesterday, a bill to reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana passed the Louisiana Senate. The bill, SB 241 by State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans), passed 27-12.

Here’s what punishments for marijuana possession under current law are:

  • First conviction is punished with a fine up to $500 and/or 6 months in prison.
  • Second conviction is punished with a fine of $250-$2,000 and/or 5 years in prison.
  • Third conviction is punished with a fine up to $5,000 and 20 years in prison.
  • If someone who has been convicted of marijuana possession is convicted of another crime, they will be punished under the “Three Strikes” law which could result in a life sentence.

These punishments are clearly excessive for marijuana possession. They’re also a contributor as to why Louisiana is the world leader in jailing its citizens.

If SB 241 becomes law, here are what the penalties for marijuana possession will become:

  • First conviction for possession of 14 grams or less will be punished with a $300 fine and/or sent to parish jail for 15 days.
  • First conviction for poessession of more than 14 grams but less than 2 1/2 pounds will be punished with a $500 fine and/or sent to parish jail for 6 months.
  • The first conviction cannot be used as a “Three Strikes” enhancement after two years, if you have not been convicted of anything else.
  • Second conviction is punished with a fine of $1,000 and/or sent to parish jail for 6 months.
  • Third convcition is punished with a fine of $2,500 and/or sent to prison for 2 years.
  • Fourth conviction is punished with a fine of $5,000 and/or sent to prision for 8 years.
  • It retains current law when it comes to synthetic marijuana.
  • It punishes those with 2 1/2 pounds to 60 pounds marijuana with a prison sentence of 2-10 years and fines between $10,000 to $30,000.

Are some of these penalties still excessive? Probably, but it’s a step in the right direction to reduce our state’s incarceration rate.

The bill was pushed by the Pelican Institute and was not opposed by the sheriffs and the DAs, which helped ensure its passage. The bill now goes over to the House. Another bill to reduce marijuana penalties by State Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) was passed a couple of weeks ago in the House.

It’s certain that the Legislature will change Louisiana’s marijuana possession laws. The only question is will Governor Bobby Jindal veto it?



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