Louisiana bill reducing penalties for minor marijuana possession narrowly passes key committee

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A bill that would lessen the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana heads towards its potential final debate. The bill by Representative Cedric Glover is one of the few marijuana bills left standing and it has gotten support on both sides of the aisle.

“I think this is reflective of a collective effort on the part of all of us who are looking to advance this issue,” Rep. Glover said. “I don’t think we would be here right now in the posture that we’re in had it not been for the fact that Rep. [Candace] Newell and Rep. [Richard] Nelson offered their legislation, started this conversation, got us going back and forth as a body collectively.”

After overwhelming support on the House floor, Rep. Glover’s bill narrowly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 3-2. The bill would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana so anyone caught with 14 grams or less of the drug would not have jail time, just a $100 fine on the first offense. Many agree that someone should not become a felon for having an amount that is considered to be just for personal use.

“Obviously if we’ve gotten to a point where we can agree that this is an issue that should no longer send you to jail or make you a felon then there is some other common ground to be found there as well just as we’ve done around the issue of medical,” Rep. Glover said.

The bill is a reflection of an ordinance in place in Shreveport, which is where Rep. Glover represents. In committee, a speaker in favor of the bill brought up that even with cities that have this policy, law enforcement could see some inconsistencies between local and state law. this bill would make it the same across all parishes.

“Once the Shreveport legislation went into place and became a local ordinance what was reflected is there is a similar ordinance that exists in Baton Rouge, a similar one in New Orleans,” Rep. Glover said. “The challenge is it is only applicable when you encounter local law enforcement.”

The other bills presented by Rep. Newell and Rep. Nelson this session were much more expensive in decriminalization as well as legalization. This bill is the narrowest focus on the reduced penalties.

With such a close vote in committee, Rep. Glover expects a tougher debate in the Senate. The District Attorneys and Louisiana Sheriff’s Association have not opposed the bill, nor have they supported it. 

“We’ve got to stop and make sure we take our time to do our due diligence and make as much individual contact as we can to air these issues out,” Rep. Glover said.

With the overwhelming support in the House , a 68-25 vote, Rep. Glover is hopeful that he can gain the support from enough Senators to send the bill to the Governor’s desk with just two weeks left in this legislative session.

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