The Louisiana Senate voted 20-17 Monday to lift certain penalties for people charged with possessing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, specifically noting that they should not be jailed.
Originally introduced by Rep. Cedric Glover (D), House Bill 652 “amends the penalty for distribution or possession with intent to distribute narcotic drugs,” including marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill in a 68-25 vote in May.
Current Louisiana law imposes criminal penalties upon the first conviction of possession of 14 grams—a half-ounce—or less: a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for up to 15 days, or both.
The proposed law seeks to reduce those penalties. In cases where the offender possesses less than 14 grams, the fine would be limited to $100 with no possibility of imprisonment, even for repeat offenders. Further, penalties would not increase to the felony level with subsequent arrests. For possession of more than 14 grams, the bill increases the fine to $500 and up to six months in jail.
Additionally, the bill authorizes courts to determine whether defendants are indigent and give those offenders who have “not willfully refused to pay and [have] made bona fide efforts to attempt to pay the fine imposed” options for payment plans or community service instead.
A recent poll found that “68% of Louisianans support decriminalizing marijuana use and possession,” a nine percent increase relative to 2020. Across the nation, nearly 30 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted similar legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The bill now moves to the desk of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.