May 28, 2021
Baton Rouge, cannabis consumers, decrim, decriminalization, HB 391, HB 652, HB 699, HB 709, jail, LA, legalization, local ordinances, Louisiana, medical cannabis flower, New Orleans, penalty reduction, possession, Rep. Candace Newell, Rep. Richard Nelson, Senate
Yesterday, the Louisiana Senate voted to allow medical cannabis in its raw, flower form in a 23-14 vote!
The Senate made some tweaks to the bill (HB 391), so it will head back to the House before landing on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. The Senate has not yet voted on the separate bill (HB 514), which MPP opposes, that would tax flower cannabis.
Meanwhile, a Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill (HB 652) to decriminalize possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis. The full Senate could vote on it as soon as Tuesday.
Write your state senator today to ask them to vote “yes” on HB 652. Let them know Louisianans shouldn’t be thrown in jail for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.
HB 652 would reduce the maximum penalty for possession of up to 14 grams to a $100 fine. Right now, the penalty is up to 15 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $300.
While progress is being made, the legislature lags far behind the public on cannabis policy reform. Polling shows two-thirds of Louisiana voters support legalization, but efforts to end cannabis prohibition have died on the House floor.
Rep. Richard Nelson’s legalization bill — HB 699 — was pulled from consideration after a companion cannabis tax bill failed. And yesterday, the House voted down Rep. Candace Newell’s bill to set up a framework for legalization — HB 709 — in a 39-62 vote.
Several cities aren’t waiting for the legislature to roll back Louisiana’s devastating and racist war on marijuana. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and East Baton Rouge have all decriminalized marijuana in recent years. More recently, New Orleans Council President Helana Moreno proposed an ordinance to dismiss all pending cases for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and pardon anyone who has a conviction. Almost 10,000 cases and convictions could be cleared.
Stay tuned for more updates, and don’t forget to write your state senator in support of decriminalization. It will save thousands of Louisianans from the trauma, disrespect, and disruption of being jailed for cannabis.