Louisiana Legislature agrees to eliminate jail time for small amounts of marijuana

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(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Legislature gave final passage Monday to a bill that calls for eliminating the possibility of jail time for possession of marijuana for personal use.

House Bill 652 by Rep. Cedric Glover, a Shreveport Democrat, reduces the maximum fine for possessing up to 14 grams of marijuana from $300 to $100. Unlike under current law, the penalties would not increase for subsequent offenses and there would be no possibility for a felony conviction.

Additional penalties for subsequent convictions for having larger amounts still would apply.

Sen. Jay Luneau, the Alexandria Democrat who presented the bill in his chamber, said the current law can lead to putting people in jail who don’t need to be there, which he described as a waste of the taxpayers’ money.

“There are people in jail because they can’t pay their fines,” he said.

Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, warned against voting for the bill, which he said is a step toward full legalization.

“We’re going to go to $100 [fines],” White said. “Next year, it’ll be $50. The next year, it’ll be 50 cents.”

The Senate sent the bill to the governor with a 20-17 vote, the bare majority needed for passage.

Legislators this year also have agreed to add smokeable marijuana to the state’s medical cannabis program in House Bill 391. The House debated legalizing marijuana for recreational use but decided not to advance those proposals.

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.

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