In a unanimous vote, Louisiana’s Senate Judiciary Committee has given approval to legislation that would drastically reduce the penalties associated with an individuals second and third cannabis possession offense, while allowing those with just one offense to have the charge expunged from their record.
The proposal, sponsored by Senator J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans), would save the state up to $16 million a year by reducing the penalty for a second cannabis possession offense to a misdemeanor with a maximum jail sentence of 6 months; under current law an individuals second offense is a felony with a potential 5 year prison sentence. The measure would reduce the penalty for a third cannabis possession offense to a felony with a maximum sentence of 4 years, rather than a maximum of 20 as it currently stands.
The bill would also allow those charged with just one cannabis possession offense to have the charge expunged (removed) from their record, meaning it would no longer appear in a criminal background check.
“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” says Yolande Cadore, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Louisiana’s overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step.”
The bill now moves to the full Senate.
According to polling released in October by Public Policy Polling, 60% of voters in Louisiana support decriminalizing cannabis possession.