Louisiana Bill Would Jail Minors for Low-Level Cannabis Possession

After decriminalizing low-level cannabis possession last year, a Louisiana proposal is seeking to reimplement the threat of jail time for minors caught with small amounts of cannabis.

Full story after the jump.

A bill proposed in Louisiana would reimplement jail time for individuals under 18-years-old convicted of possessing 14 grams or less of cannabis, the Louisiana Illuminator reports. The measure would impose a 15-day jail term for a minor’s first offense, a two-year sentence for a third conviction, and a four-year term for a fourth offense.

The proposal comes less than a year after state lawmakers approved a cannabis decriminalization law that eliminated jail time for individuals convicted of possessing 14 grams of cannabis or less, opting instead for fines that cannot exceed $100.

Under the bill, proposed by state Rep. Larry Bagley (R), adults would still face no jail for possessing less than 14 grams of cannabis. The measure also includes exceptions for children possessing their own medical cannabis products.

Bagley said the change is needed because K-12 schools in his community are unable to keep cannabis off their campuses and that the district attorney in his hometown, DeSoto Parish, has no way to force minors into drug treatment through drug court without the threat of incarceration. Bagley said he believes that the threat of incarceration could be used to push the children into the rehabilitation programs and argued that the proposal is not about “trying to put people in prison.”

State Rep. Nicholas Muscarello (R) agreed that laws around minors possessing cannabis should be tighter but argued that “no judge” would put “a kid in jail for six months for marijuana.”

“We are trying to rehabilitate children,” he said in an interview with the Illuminator. “This allows our courts to kind of keep them in check and put them in drug courts.”

State Rep. Danny McCormick (R) questioned why the penalty for minors possessing cannabis would be harsher than that for possessing alcohol.

“Alcohol, in my opinion, would be greatly more harmful than marijuana,” he said in the report.

The bill was advanced last week by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice to the full chamber.

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