Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced on Thursday that he’ll sign legislation to legalize medical cannabis, and to reduce the penalties for cannabis possession, if the bills reach his desk as expected.
Senate Bill 143, which passed the House Committee on Health and Welfare yesterday and has already passed the full Senate, would legalize the possession and state-licensed distribution of cannabis medicines with those with certain debilitating conditions. The proposal wouldn’t allow cannabis to be smoked, but would allow for it to be vaporized and consumed through oils, edibles, tinctures and topicals.
Senate Bill 241, which passed the full Senate earlier this week, would reduce the penalties for possessing cannabis, while allowing those with just one cannabis possession charge to have it removed from their records.
Under SB 241, the maximum penalty for someone caught possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis would be reduced to a 15 day jail sentence and a $300 fine, whereas it’s currently a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. The penalty for a second cannabis possession offense would be reduced to a misdemeanor with a maximum jail sentence of 6 months, compared to a potential 5 year prison sentence as it currently stands. Te penalty for a third cannabis possession offense would be reduced to a maximum sentence of 2 years, with the fourth offense being a maximum of 8 years; under current law, a person’s third and subsequent offenses can net them 20 years in prison.
“If it got to our desk we’d sign it,” Jindal said of Senate Bill 143 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.”
“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 of Senate Bill 241 (and its companion bill, House Bill 149). “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.”
Both SB 241 and SB 143 require approval by the full House of Representatives before being sent to Governor Jindal, who would have the option of signing them into law, allowing them to become law without his signature, or vetoing them.