Louisiana bill to decriminalize marijuana wins final passage in Legislature
A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in Louisiana won final passage in the Legislature Monday, making the penalty for smoking pot no more than a traffic ticket if Gov. John Bel Edwards signs it into law.
The full Senate voted 20-17 in favor of the measure.
Edwards hasn’t yet taken a public position on House Bill 652 by Shreveport Democratic Rep. Cedric Glover.
The bill would make possession of 14 grams or less — about half an ounce — a misdemeanor in all cases and limit the fine to $100 with no jail time.
“This is a common sense approach to a problem that is plaguing us across the state,” said Democratic Alexandria Sen. Jay Luneau, who presented the bill on the Senate floor Monday.
Glover said he believes his bill, which is based on a local ordinance passed in Shreveport, found a sweet spot with those whose attitudes about weed are evolving but who don’t yet support full legalization.
“One thing I think we can find common ground on is the belief that the possession of small amounts of marijuana should not lead you to jail or to become a felon,” Glover said during committee debate.
Glover formed a rare alliance with conservative Shreveport Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh, whose amendment in the House set the perimeters for penalties.
“It essentially provides for the officer to write a ticket with no jail time,” Seabaugh said then.
During committee debate Peter Robins-Brown of left-leaning Louisiana Progress testified that Louisiana is one of only 19 states that haven’t either legalized pot or decriminalized it.
Robins-Brown said the continued criminalization of pot is “a waste of law enforcement resources” and it “undermines trust between communities and police.”
Will Hall of the Louisiana Baptist Convention was the only one who testified against the bill during its Senate committee hearing, saying the unknowns are too dangerous.
The bill does not alter the penalties for someone who is distributing marijuana, only for possession.
But Republican Baton Rouge Sen. Bodie White, who opposed the bill, said Monday it’s just the first step in complete legalization.
“This is just a walk down that road,” White said.
A bill from Republican state Rep. Richard Nelson that would legalize the sale and use of marijuana died in the House earlier in the session.
But a bill from Republican Houma Rep. Tanner Magee adding smokable cannabis to the state’s medical pot program options has already won final passage and has the governor’s support.