Louisiana has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country, and the impact can be most clearly seen when looking at penalties for marijuana possession.
Current Penalties for Louisiana Marijuana Possession
The current laws punish a first-time offender with a misdemeanor and up to six months in jail. However, the penalties increase dramatically when you start looking at subsequent offenders. For example, a second offender can get up to 5 years in prison and a third offender can get up to 20 years.
The extreme nature of these penalties is illustrated by the fact that multiple states (Colorado and Washington to name a few) have already legalized marijuana for recreational use.
While Louisiana is likely many years away from legalizing marijuana (if it ever does), newly proposed legislation would at least soften the blow of convictions for marijuana possession.
Proposed Law Reduces Punishment for Marijuana Possession in Louisiana
The Louisiana House of Representatives’ bill that would decrease the penalties for marijuana possession just made it out of the Senate’s Judiciary C Committee, albeit with some changes.
The new law would make the following changes to the current laws for marijuana possession.
1. Reduced Penalties for First-Time Offenders
Under the new law, a first time offender in possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana would only face up to 15 days in jail.
2. Reduced Penalties for Subsequent Offenders
A second offense would no longer be a felony but would only be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail. Marijuana possession wouldn’t be treated as a felony until a third conviction, and even then, it would only be punishable by up to 2 years in prison (down from the current potential 20 year sentence).
3. Potential for Second Offense to Be Treated as a First Offense
Another noteworthy change in the law would treat a second marijuana possession conviction as a first offense if it has been more than 2 years since the first conviction.
It is interesting to note that neither the sheriff’s association nor the district attorneys association testified against the bill. Only time will tell if the proposed changes become law, but it is a positive step for Louisiana in keeping up with the current national trend towards reduced marijuana punishment.