Louisiana House approves HB 652, a law to decriminalize marijuana

The Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday effectively decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under the measure, House Bill 652 (HB 652), possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis would only be punishable by a fine of up to $ 100 for the first and second offenses. Minor marijuana possession violations would still be considered a misdemeanor, but would no longer pose the risk of time in jail.

“We don’t have to fill our prisons with marijuana crimes,” said Democratic MP Denise Marcelle, an advocate for the law, to local media.

The bill was approved by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice last week ahead of this week’s vote. The entire House approved HB 652 on Tuesday with 67 votes to 25. The move, sponsored by Rep. Cedric Glover, received significant support from both his Democratic counterparts and members of the GOP majority.

“I think it’s a pretty good compromise,” said Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Republican and one of the most Conservative members of the Louisiana House of Representatives.

Some of Louisiana’s largest cities, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, have already taken steps to lower penalties for possession of low marijuana. In New Orleans, penalties for a first offense of cannabis possession are capped at just $ 40, while some city guides are calling for the fine to be lowered even further to $ 1. In 2018, Baton Rouge eliminated jail time as a possible punishment for possessing less than 14 grams of marijuana. Instead, a fine of between $ 40 and $ 100 will be imposed, depending on the number of previous offenses for a particular defendant. Shreveport’s revised regulation is similar to that of HB 652.

HB 652 is now going to the Louisiana Senate for consideration. If the measure is passed by the House of Lords, it becomes law when it is signed by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards.

Despite approval of HB 652, Vote on late adult cannabis bill

Louisiana lawmakers are also considering a separate measure, House Bill 699 (HB 699), designed to legalize adult recreational marijuana use and regulate commercial cannabis production and sales. The move is due to be discussed on the floor of the House on May 18, after being postponed Monday to allow Legislative Sponsor Rep. Richard Nelson to revise the bill.

“So we had some people out to vote on. We are also working on some amendments to get more people on board,” said Nelson.

To counter opposition to the measure, Nelson plans to reduce the amount of marijuana that can be legally owned under the law and remove a provision in the law that would allow adults to grow cannabis plants at home.

“We’re going to try to take this piece out for their home growing that people can use to grow it at home, and it’s basically a lesson we learned from some other states like Colorado,” said Nelson. “We’re also reducing the amount that you can legally own. It was two and a half pounds, we’re looking at two and a half ounces instead. “

Speaking of concerns that Louisiana cannabis reform is moving too fast, Nelson noted that the state is losing revenue that could be generated by levying taxes on commercial cannabis sales.

“A kick that can get down the street costs $ 100 million a year, so we can delay it, but not only are we losing 100 million in tax dollars, we’re still sending all hundreds of millions of dollars to drug dealers and cartels. That’s less than ideal, ”said Nelson.

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