A measure to significantly reduce the penalties associated with marijuana possession in Louisiana passed he full House today with a vote of 54 to 38. House Bill 103, which was filed in March by State Representative Austin Badon, passed its initial committee – the House Criminal Justice Committee – with a unanimous 14 to 0 vote on May 1st. It now heads to the Senate.
“You will see an immediate savings because we are not putting away people for so long,” stated Representative Badon. His comment is validated by the bill’s fiscal note which found that the measure would save the state $2.2 million in 2014 alone.
Under current Louisiana law, an individual’s 2nd cannabis possession charge can net someone up to 5 years in prison. Those with a 3rd possession charge can face up to 20 years in prison, regardless of the amount possessed. Under the new proposal someone’s 2nd cannabis possession offense would be a maximum sentence of 2 year, rather than 5. A 3rd cannabis offense would be altered to have a maximum sentence of 5 years, rather 20 years. Every offense past the 3rd offense would be a maximum of 8 years, compared to life in prison under current law
The maximum fine would also be cut in half to $2,500, down from $5,000.
Although this measure is a relatively small step forward, it’s progress nonetheless, and advocates in the state should be contacting their senators and governor, urging them to support this commonsense proposal.