Earlier this week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two positive marijuana-related bills into law — a penalty reduction bill and a flawed medical marijuana program.
The first, HB 149, significantly reduces penalties for marijuana possession! Although penalties will still be harsh for possessing a substance safer than alcohol, HB 149 is an important step forward — it shaves months, and in some cases years, off of cannabis consumers’ sentences. This law is effective immediately.
While first offense marijuana possession remains a misdemeanor, the penalty for possessing 14 grams or less is now far less severe than it was. The maximum jail sentence is reduced from six months to 15 days while the maximum fine is reduced from $500 to $300. HB 149 also significantly reduces the sentences for second and subsequent marijuana possession charges.
Gov. Jindal also signed into law a bill that could, in the future, support a compassionate medical marijuana program for Louisianans, although it will not allow patients to use the medicine in smokable form.
SB 143 allows Louisiana physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these federal guidelines don’t exist, this law is not currently operable. Physicians risk losing their prescription license if they use it to prescribe marijuana. But hope remains for future regulatory improvement. Overall, both new laws signed by Gov. Jindal represent improvements for Louisiana’s marijuana policies.