Last Update: September 23, 2014
Legislature takes modest step toward sensible marijuana policy
Before adjourning the 2014 legislative session on June 2, the Louisiana Legislature took a modest step toward sensible marijuana policy by passing legislation that reforms the way Louisiana treats a misdemeanor cannabis possession charge for someone who is on parole. On June 12, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed the legislation, which went into effect on August 1.
Previously, acquiring a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge while on parole automatically resulted in parole revocation, but now judges will have the discretion to penalize parolees charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession with administrative sanctions instead of mandatory parole revocation.
Unfortunately, a handful of proposals that would have rolled back some of Louisiana’s draconian cannabis laws failed to move. Proposals to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession to a criminal fine only, to recognize the medical benefits of marijuana, and to remove marijuana crimes from the habitual offender statute were all introduced, but no committee votes were taken.
That said, Louisianans from across the state should continue to email their lawmakers and ask them to support allowing medical marijuana. Please also consider asking them to support replacing criminal penalties and possible jail time for simple possession of marijuana with a civil fine, similar to a traffic ticket.
Please make sure you're signed up for MPP's email alerts so we can call on you again to support sensible marijuana policy reforms in Louisiana.
Poll shows Louisiana voters support reform
The people of Louisiana are ready to rid their state of the overly harsh penalties currently imposed for marijuana offenses. A February 2014 LSU State Survey found 79% of Louisianans support allowing medical marijuana. These results are more than 10 points greater than an August 2013 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey that found 65% support for medical marijuana. The PPP poll also found that 56% of likely voters favor citing individuals for simple marijuana possession over arresting them, and 53% think the state should change its law “to allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, for legal use by adults age 21 and older.”
ACLU study shows Louisiana's harsh marijuana laws result in racially disproportionate arrest rates
Louisiana has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. First-offense possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to six months in jail. In 2010, SB 576 passed into law and actually increased the penalty for second-offense marijuana possession by including a mandatory minimum fine of at least $250 and 48 hours in jail.
A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Louisiana are 3.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Please take a moment to send a letter to your legislators asking them to reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana to a civil fine or asking them to end marijuana prohibition entirely by legalizing marijuana and regulating it for adult use similarly to alcohol.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Louisiana, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.