Louisiana’s Senate has passed House Bill 149, a proposal to significantly reduce the penalties for cannabis possession, while allowing certain cannabis possession charges to be expunged from people’s criminal records.
House Bill 149, which is a slightly altered version of Senate Bill 241 which the Senate passed in May, has already passed the full House of Representatives with a 54 to 37 vote. Sponsored by Representative Austin Badon, the bill would reduce the penalty for possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis from a potential six month jail sentence and a $2,500 fine, to a maximum jail sentence of 15 days, and a maximum fine of $300.
The penalty for a second cannabis possession offense (of any amount, as long as it isn’t deemed for distribution) would be reduced to a misdemeanor with a maximum jail sentence of six months, whereas it’s currently a felony with a potential five year prison sentence. The penalty for a third cannabis possession offense would be reduced to a maximum sentence of two years, with the fourth offense being a maximum of eight years. Under current Louisiana law, a person’s third and subsequent offenses can result in a 20 year prison sentence.
House Bill 149 would also allow those charged a cannabis possession offense to have the charge expunged (removed) from their record, so long as they didn’t receive another cannabis-related charge within a two-year period afterward.
House Bill 149 has been sent back to the House for a final vote, as it was amended slightly in the Senate. It will then go to Governor Bobby Jindal, who said last week that he will sign it into law if given the chance.