Bill to reduce marijuana penalties in Louisiana passes full Senate
A proposal to soften Louisiana's harsh marijuana laws by reducing penalties for possession continues to gain steam in the Louisiana Legislature.
The Senate voted 27-12 Monday (May 25) to advance legislation that would create a new penalty system for marijuana possession dealing with amounts less than 2.5 pounds.
The measure's sponsor, J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said his bill (SB 241) brings Louisiana's marijuana laws closer in line with other states, "in a way that is more humane." For example, the bill reduces the maximum penalty for possession from 20 years in prison to eight, raises the threshold for a felony-level possession charge and adds a second-chance provision for first-time offenders.
Under current law, the maximum penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana up to 60 pounds are a $500 fine and six moths in jail for a first offense (a misdemeanor), a $2,500 fine and five years in prison for a second offense (a felony); and a $5,000 fine and a 20-year prison term (a felony).
Morrell's bill does not change penalties for first-offense possession of marijuana dealing with amounts between 14 grams and 2.5 pounds. The legislation makes possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana punishable by maximum sentence of a $300 fine and 15 days in jail. Second offenses are a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail; third offenses are a felony punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and two years in prison; and fourth or subsequent offenses are a felony punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and eight years in prison.
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