Reduced penalties for marijuana possession possible in Louisiana

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

The Louisiana Senate will debate eliminating the possibility of a felony conviction or jail time for possession of marijuana for personal use.

The Senate Judiciary C Committee voted 3-2 on Tuesday to advance House Bill 652 by Rep. Cedric Glover, a Shreveport Democrat. It calls for a possible $100 fine for possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana. There would no longer be escalating penalties for subsequent convictions, possibly leading to a felony or incarceration.

Penalties for sale and distribution and for possessing larger amounts would not change.

Lawmakers already have debated and rejected full legalization this year. A bill that would add smokeable marijuana to the state’s medical program is scheduled for debate in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon.

Glover said while members have strong opinions for and against full legalization, most agree that harsh penalties for possession of a substance that is legal in much of the country are unnecessary. Enforcing such penalties are not a good use of the justice system’s time and resources and can drive a wedge between law enforcement and the people they serve, supporters of Glover’s bill argued.

A long list of supporters turned in green cards indicating their support. Only Will Hall, representing the Louisiana Baptist Convention, spoke in opposition.

Hall said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to limiting the penalties for having small amounts of marijuana with low amounts of THC, which is the substance in cannabis that gets users high. However, he said marijuana with 30% THC is much more dangerous than weed that is 3% THC, and Glover’s bill does not make a distinction between different strains.