Legislature adjourns after improving marijuana policies
Last update: January 21, 2016
Louisiana’s 2015 legislative session saw the passage of two bills that move marijuana policies in the right direction. On June 29, 2015, Gov. Jindal signed into law HB 149, which reduces penalties for possession of marijuana, and SB 143, which attempts to create a compassionate medical marijuana program.
HB 149 reduces the maximum jail time and maximum fines that may be imposed for possession of quantities of cannabis less than 60 pounds. The maximum term of incarceration for first offense possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis is reduced from six months to 15 days. Meanwhile, SB 143 purports to create a medical marijuana program; however, it only permits physicians to “prescribe” marijuana. Unfortunately, federal law does not currently allow physicians to prescribe any Schedule I substance, which includes marijuana. This means that Louisianans will most likely continue to be without access or legal protections for medial cannabis. Furthermore, the law states that either or both of Louisiana State University and Southern University, jointly or separately, have the right of first refusal to be licensed as production facilities.
If you are a Louisianan, you can help ensure that Louisiana lawmakers continue to rethink the state’s current draconian marijuana policies, which have landed some Louisianans in prison for more than a decade for small amounts of cannabis. Please ask your representatives to impose a civil fine — not possible jail time — for simple possession of marijuana, or to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults’ use.
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. Unfortunately, these laws disproportionately effect Louisiana’s African American community. 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.