Louisiana: Lawmakers Send Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation to Governor’s Desk

Members of the Louisiana state Senate approved legislation to remove the threat of jail time for low-level marijuana possession offenses.

House Bill 652 reduces the penalty for the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana for first-time as well as subsequent offenses to a $100 fine only. While there would be no possibility of jail time under the bill, these offenses would still be classified as misdemeanors.

The Senate approved HB 652 with a 20 to 17 vote Monday, and it will now head to the desk of Governor John Bel Edwards (D). The bill was already approved by the House of Representatives earlier this month. Once transmitted to the Governor, he has 20 days to either sign the bill or veto it. If he fails to act within that timeline, the measure becomes law automatically. If the bill becomes law, it will take effect on August 1, 2021.

“This is a much needed policy change for Louisiana,” said NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf. “The passage of this legislation is great progress toward ending the racially discriminatory policy of branding otherwise law-abiding Louisianans as criminals for minor marijuana possession offenses when law enforcement should instead be focusing on fighting legitimate crime.”

Separate legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults in the state was removed from consideration by the sponsor last month, effectively killing it. 

Lawmakers also sent separate legislation to the desk of John Bel Edwards to repeal the ban on smoking medical cannabis flower as well as a measure requesting “a study of the effects of legalizing recreational cannabis usage” on Monday, sending it on to the Senate for further consideration.