Louisiana Marijuana
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Louisiana Senate Approves Bill To Reform Marijuana Possession Law

Louisiana MarijuanaLouisiana’s Senate took an important step toward reforming their state’s harsh marijuana possession law when they approved bill SB241 by a vote of 27-12 yesterday. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.

“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,”  said 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 U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S.  Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last twenty years and is nearly five times higher than Iran’s, 13 times higher than China’s and 20 times higher than Germany’s.  One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

According to a 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, Louisiana suffers from some of the worst racial disparities in marijuana enforcement of any state in the U.S.  Black Louisianans are arrested for marijuana possession at 3 times the rate as their white counterparts, despite the fact that black and white people use and sell marijuana at similar rates.

One tragic case in Louisiana is that of Bernard Noble, a father of seven, who is serving 13 years behind bars after he was arrested for possessing 2 joints of marijuana. Mr. Noble had two prior minor drug offenses more than 10 years earlier and because of Louisiana’s habitual offender law, the “third strike” gave him a mandatory sentence of 13 years of hard labor behind bars.

“The opportunity for redemption is to be applauded and signals that a run-in with the law shouldn’t be a burden one carries her entire life,” said Jee Park, Deputy Chief Defender at Orleans Public Defenders. “Criminal penalties and the social and economic barriers they create are major hurdles for many families in Louisiana and need to be removed.”

While criminal justice reform advocates say that this is a step in the right direction, Louisiana’s marijuana laws will remain harsher than nearly all other U.S. states, even if SB241 passes the House and is signed into law.

Under current law, the maximum penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana up to 60 pounds are a $500 fine and six months 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 for a third or subsequent offense (a felony). 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.

According to a 2014 survey conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, the majority of Louisianans are in favor of marijuana sentencing reform.

An August 2013 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey found that 56% of likely voters favor citing individuals for simple marijuana possession over arresting them. The same poll found that 64% said they are against strict penalties for repeat offenders.

“It’s outrageous to punish marijuana possession so severely when a clear majority of Louisiana voters support eliminating criminal penalties for it,” added Cadore. “It’s a relief to see that smart policymakers are starting to recognize this political reality.”

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation

  • Jetdoc

    Louisiana’s gonna reduce it to LIFE without parole instead of the Death Penalty now being imposed in Louisiana for simple possession.

  • HellNo

    Still if you get caught with weed 3 times it’s a felony. And 4th time, you do 8 years in prison.

  • AntiIgnorant

    Cannabis is safer than alcohol and pharmaceuticals…. their harsh laws are still driven by a flourishing prison and law enforcement industry that LOVES the black market. We see right through your corruption Louisiana…

    Cannabis should be no more a crime than alcohol. In fact, it should be less.

  • The truth

    This is why it has to be decriminalized and rescheduled at the federal level…to keep assholes like Louisiana Legislatures from over criminalizing it. The vote was 27-12…. Freaking 12 senators, including mine-Claitor from BR, voted for the continuance of a 3rd offense simple possession 20 year max prison term. What kind of sick asshole thinks that’s a suitable punishment??? It’s a step in the right direction. This saw bill didn’t even make it out of the senate last year. Pathetic!

  • Ted Mishler

    I lived in New Orleans in the mid seventies for 6 months, a pretty place…
    Why does anyone believe that people who use cannabis need to be punished for its use, sale or transport, unless they use the excuse to make monies by treating all who use cannabis as their slaves.
    Louisiana Senate Bill seeks to lessen the severity of its beatings of the slaves?
    Legalize and stop the lies

  • t book

    In Louisiana when police arrest a prostitute they say, “You are being arrested for crimes against nature.” No joke. Police actually say this. A state run by Neanderthals. Crimes against nature!

  • HellNo

    Simple possession of ANY drug should never be a felony. It’s one thing to try to control access to hard narcotics, but attacking the user with felony charges is cruel punishment.
    And while some people might not approve of cannabis use, it is no threat to public safety, and should not be subject to ANY penalties.

  • ĐΣFΣCŦΣĐ

    So basically 15 days will ruin their jobs, then afterwards be forced onto welfare over a individual choice, that harms nobody. Smart thinking Politicians… Morons.

  • Ted Mishler

    Banning people who use cannabis from a job, a family etc, only terrorists would allow it

    Soldiers fought and died for this?

  • The truth

    This Bill (SB143) has been moved out of the House Health and Welfare committee today (5/27) to the house floor for a vote.I’m not sure when that vote will take place, but it should be next week. I think it will pass judging from the HB 149 Bill lowering penalties for simple possession passed out of the house recently. This is such a bullshit MMJ bill, but the idiots in the La legislature are lost in the past and can’t get their heads around MJ as a medicine. Cheech and Chong did a number on these guys long ago. One legislator, J. Morris of Monroe, LA said “It’s hard for a layman to determine if marijuana is better than what we have on the market today”. He’s the typical ‘head in the sand’ evangelical republican that’s so prominent in our fine state these days. Just full of wonder and stupidity…truly amazing how they can continue to ignore facts and and especially testimony from people who have actually benefited tremendously from this wonderful PLANT!!! What kills me is that during the Senate committee hearing Dan Claitor (pussy senator from Baton Rouge) gutted the ‘any acceptable condition deemed worthy by a Doctor’ Clause to ‘Cancer, Glaucoma, and ALS. He did this after a woman begging for CBD oil for her epileptic daughter testified with a bag of pills that had failed to come close to the relief from siezures that CBD oil provided. She also testified to the horrible side effects of the pills ‘on the market today’. There’s your answer Rep. Morris! They pills suck!!!