There have been a couple of bills moving through the Legislature dealing with marijuana related topics. One bill deals with medical marijuana and another bill decreases Louisiana’s draconian penalties for marijuana possession.
SB 143 by State Sen. Fred Mills (R-Parks) has already passed the Senate and has already passed the House Committee on Health and Welfare. The DA’s association opposes it. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a full floor vote in the House, but given how other marijuana bills have done on the House floor, it should pass and make its way to Governor Jindal’s desk.
There are two separate, but similiar bills dealing with marijuana possession. HB 149 by State Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) has already passed the House floor and is scheduled for a full Senate floor vote on Monday. There’s a second bill, SB 241 by State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) has already passed the Senate, but has not been heard yet by the House Criminal Justice committee. The clock will likely run out on Morrell’s bill, so Badon’s bill will likely head to Governor Jindal’s desk after it passes the full Senate. Both bills reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. The sheriffs and the DAs are not opposed to either bill and the Pelican Institute is backing Morrell’s bill.
Supporters of these bills got a boost yesterday from Governor Jindal. He said he would sign the bills if they reached his desk.
Technically, medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1971, but there’s never been rules written to regulate growing, prescribing or dispensing it.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, includes those rules but Jindal in the past had said he wanted “to reserve the right” to examine the bill in more detail.
“If it got to our desk we’d sign it,” Jindal said during a Thursday press briefing. “Our view on medical marijuana was, it had to be supervised and had to be a legitimate medical purpose and his bill meets that criteria.”
On the nearly identical bills introduced by state Sen. J.P. Morrell and Rep. Austin Badon, both Democrats from New Orleans, Jindal said he is similarly supportive of the legislation.
“We are fine with the idea of providing rehabilitation and treatment for non-violent drug offenders, and I think this bill does that,” Jindal said. “I think that’s good for those offenders and it’s good for taxpayers. That’s another bill that if it got to our desk we’d sign that as well.”
Fiscal analysts have said that Morrell’s bill could save taxpayers as much as $16 million over five years.
Jindal’s making the right decision here by supporting both bills. These bills are a win-win for taxpayers, the state, sick people, and marijuana offenders.
Hopefully this will be the beginning of broader criminal justice reform efforts in the state.