The Louisiana State Senate voted 27-12 on Monday to advance a bill that would reduce marijuana possession penalties. The law would create a new penalty system for those caught with less than 2.5 pounds.
Under current Louisiana law, a first-time misdemeanor sentence can carry with it a fine of up to $500 and six months in jail. Second-time offenders can be charged with a felony, a $2,500 fine and five years in prison, and repeat offenders can receive a maximum fine of $5,000 and 20 years behind bars.
The proposed bill would not change penalties for first-time possession charges of between 14 grams and 2.5 pounds. Possession of less than 14 grams would be punishable by up 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $300. Second-time offenders would be subject to a misdemeanor fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail; third-time offenders would be guilty of a felony punishable by up to two years prison time and a $2,500 fine; and subsequent offenses would be a felony carrying with it up to a $5,000 fine and eight years behind bars (down from 20 under current law).
The bill would also give first-time offenders a one-time opportunity to have their record expunged after two years without another conviction.
J.P. Morrell (D.-New Orleans), SB 241’s sponsor, says the proposal would bring the state’s penalty system into the company of other states “in a way that is more humane.” The maximum prison time for a marijuana possession charge in most states is a year or less.
The bill now heads to the House to be debated.
Photo Credit: Antrell Williams
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