On May 25, the Louisiana State Senate voted 27-12 to further legislation that would create a new system for punishments for those who are arrested for marijuana possession of less than 2.5 pounds.
Under the current statute, “the maximum penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana up to 60 pounds are a $500 fine and six months in jail for a first offense (a misdemeanor), a $2,500 fine and five years in prison for a second offense (a felony), and a $5,000 fine and a 20-year prison term for a third or subsequent offense (a felony),” The Times-Picayune writes.
The legislation’s author, State Sen. J.P. Morrell, a Democrat, would reduce the maximum prison sentence from 20 years to eight years and adds a second-chance clause for first-time offenders.
Critics of the current law say the punishments are unfair to first-time offenders and the state’s overcrowded and burdened jails could use some relief from nonviolent criminals.
More specifically, Morrell’s bill would create a new felony possession charge of up to two years in prison and a maximum of 10 years if any citizen is caught with more than 2.5 pounds of the drug, CBS News reported.
Morrell also noted that the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana District Attorney Association did not oppose the legislation at a hearing late last year. Individual sheriffs voiced their opposition to Morrell’s legislation later on, which eventually halted the bill from moving forward.
While no lawmaker publicly opposed the legislation, some were concerned with the ramifications of its passage on the community.
“There doesn’t seem to be a consensus from sheriffs on this,” State Sen. Gerald Long said. Long, a Republican, was one of the 12 votes opposed to the legislation.
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