Louisiana resident Corey Ladd was sentenced to 20 years in prison recently. You would think that a 20-year sentence indicates Ladd committed some heinous crimes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
According to court documents, Ladd was handed his sentence for possessing half an ounce of marijuana. Ladd’s sentencing is due in part to his prior criminal offenses. But regardless of the offender, Louisiana has some of the strictest, if not the strictest, marijuana laws in the nation.
As Dissident Voice writer and Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley notes, these laws affect black residents at disproportionally high rates. Even though white and black Americans use marijuana at similar rates, blacks are over three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses.
“For example,” Quigley writes, “Louisiana arrests about 13,000 people per year for marijuana, 60% of them African Americans. Over 84 percent were for possession only. While Louisiana’s population is 32 percent black, 60 percent of arrests for marijuana are African American making it the 9th most discriminatory state nationwide.”
The study Quigley is referencing was conducted by the ACLU and can be seen here.
After years of increasingly harsh marijuana laws, Louisiana legislators appeared to make some progress in the opposite direction earlier this year. On May 29, 2013 the Louisiana House voted 54-38 to approve a bill that would have reduced marijuana possession penalties for second and subsequent offenders. The bill, House Bill 103, was approved 4-2 by the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee, but was never debated on the Senate floor. The Senate adjourned for the summer on June 6, but the Marijuana Policy Project remains hopeful that the progress made by HB-103 will carry over into the next legislative year.
This spring, the Pew Foundation reported that a majority of Americans support the legalization and regulation of marijuana. Yet despite this, half of all drug arrests made in America every year are for marijuana.
Public support for marijuana legalization is strong in the state Ladd was charged in as well, where the Public Policy Polling group found that more than half of Louisiana residents support marijuana legalization.