Three Marijuana Reform Bills Filed in Louisiana

(Welcome back to our one-time intern Jimi Devine, who has graciously volunteered his time to support our blog.)

Louisiana State Capitol
The smell of marijuana reform is strong in the bayou air, Louisiana is now home to a big push for both medical marijuana and major sentencing reforms around marijuana convictions.

Today the Louisiana legislature' House Health and Welfare Committee will hear a medical marijuana bill brought forward by Republican State Senator Fred Mills, a man who formerly served as head of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Mills spent the last year working with law enforcement to make it past a committee and organizations that had held it back in the past.

According to Northeast Louisiana media outlet The News Star, major revisions have been made with support from the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, they include:

  • Prescribed marijuana would be taken in a form other than smoking it, perhaps in a pill.
  • The state Agriculture Department would be in charge of growing marijuana to be used for medical purposes.
  • Dispensing pharmacies -- ten, at this point -- would be required to meet certain conditions.
  • The bill would "sunset," or be reviewed on Jan. 1, 2020, giving lawmakers pause to determine if the changes to state law were beneficial. If the bill proves ineffective, the law could be corrected or ended.
  • The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy would adopt rules about dispensing medical marijuana.

This session the bill made it through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that halted its progress in 2014, and then passed the full senate with two thirds in support. On when he takes it before the house Mills noted, "I'm hoping for a repeat performance from the Senate."

While the bill is very restrictive, but it would reinforce national trends on the medical use of marijuana in Louisiana. Hopefully leading to a more inclusive law in the future.

The sentencing reform bills look to reduce the penalties associated with a marijuana conviction in the state. Currently a third marijuana possession conviction could lead to a baffling 20 year sentence.

According to NOLA.com, the bill authored by New Orleans State Senator J.P. Morrell,

"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."
 

Penalties would still be much more severe than their counterparts in other states, but first time offenders would have one opportunity to expunge their record after two years without a conviction. The bill would also reclassify a second offense from a felony to misdemeanor for quantities between fourteen grams and two and a half pounds.

The bill is projected to save Louisiana $17 million over the first five years. This would cover the $900,000 a year in wasteful spending on corrections highlighted by the Office of State Inspector General with $13 million to spare.

NOLA.com columnist Jarvis DaBerry noted,

"Such a bill does two important things. First, it establishes that a person with a small amount of weed isn't a real threat to the public. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the bill would keep such a conviction from haunting a person forever."
 

The second bill authored by Rep. Austin Badon would push major reforms, but is not as big a shift as the one presented by Morrell. Badon' bill would see those committing a third offense jailed five years, as opposed to the two year sentence in Morell' bill. It also does not include the possibility of conviction being expunged for first time offenders.

UPDATE: On Thursday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said he would sign the bills if passed by the house and senate. In regards to the sentencing bill he told the Shreveport Times

"We've said all along we're fine with the idea of providing rehabilitation and treatment for nonviolent drug offenders. I think this bill does that. That's good for those offenders, that is good for taxpayers. So again, that's another one of those bills that if it got to our desk we'd sign that."

While Louisiana debates the direction of their sentencing procedures, I'll leave you with another quote from Jarvis DeBerry on the subject:

"Here's a prediction: Sooner or later, we're going to look back at what Louisiana has doing to folks caught with marijuana, and we're going to be just as shocked those sentences had our officials' blessing."

 
 
 
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Drug war fiasco

The way the US has handled the so-called drug war has been one of most expensive and destructive in our history. There Has to be a better way! I'm talking about all Illegal drugs, not just marijuana. I need some ideas and talking points to convince my friends (or anyone) that I'm right.

Our Federal government has no

Our Federal government has no idea what they are doing.Taxing Medical is only going to allow the gangs and cartels to offer a healthy 32% discount.Mid grade is 100$ an oz on the streets of Louisiana.A pound is 800$.this is mid grade, which is about 10% THC.The DEA just approved a study that will contain half THC and half CBD.No drug dealer on this planet would ever consider weakening his weed with CBD.Shush now, the Feds are working hard to keep the smugglers thriving.Our leaders live in a bubble, all they know is. How am I going to manage on this quarter of a mil a year?Poverty rules, not GOP rules.Poverty says We the People will always seek out the least expensive product out  there.The only way anyone is going to have a significant impact on the black market is for We the People to be allowed to grow and consume  our own MJ.Then and only then will we ever have an impact on the drug world.Medical MJ is 5000$ a pound.Compare this to Mid grade at 800$ a pound.Ha Ha. Ha.Capitalism does not have a seat at the table.Nor do our Law Dogs..The Law has had 60 years to do somthing.Locking up and ruining peoples lives is not the answer.Pverty rules.La Buscador.A Louisiana resident.

Louisiana has the highest

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country, which has the highest rate in the world, making Louisiana the incarceration capital of the world. And these draconian marijuana laws are a big part of why.

By the way, the legislators are wrong about max sentences. If someone is caught within half a mile of a drug-free zone, which includes schools, churches, government lands and many business, sentences are boosted by 50%. So, the max sentence is 30 years in prison for getting caught with a few seeds more than twice.

It!s still 5 years per seed

It!s still 5 years per seed and 5 years per plant in Louisiana and 24 other states.By a strict interpretation of Louisiana Law. Three joints is 3 packages. It!s 3 counts of possession or 3 counts of possession with the intent to distribute.More with seeds.Five years per seed. La Buscador A Louisiana Resident.

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Never before in the history

Never before in the history of Georgia politics have so many cannabis related bills been filed in the General Assembly. Seven (7) bills have been filed during the 2015/2016 sessions. Bills ranging from an expansion of HB-1, a medical cannabis bills passed in 2015, to removal of felony charges for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana (SB-254). Also, a bill allowing for industrial hemp was filed in 2015 to allow farmers to experiment with the hemp plant.

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