Legal experts call bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana a step in the right direction

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – After Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill that would take away jail time for having small amounts of marijuana, legal experts are calling it a step in the right direction.

Attorney Harry Daniels III represents first time offenders who were jailed for possessing small amounts of marijuana. He said, the new law will help a lot more people than it’s going to hurt.

“A young person traditionally get caught with a small amount of marijuana, lets say they are in college and that marijuana conviction and arrest could go on their record that could inhibit them from, lets say getting a job,” said Daniels.

House Bill 652 signed by Edwards says, if a person is caught with 14 grams of weed or less, they will get a $100 fine.

“On a first conviction or any subsequent conviction, wherein the offender possesses fourteen grams or less, the offender shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars.”

Rep. Cedric Glover

“I think it levels the playing field, it creates uniformity and I think it’s definitely going to help generate a stream of revenue from the fines it’s going to bring in,” said Daniels.

The bill authored by Rep. Cedric Glover of Shreveport did not have any major opposition from state law enforcement groups.

“I think it also saves a lot of resources in the law enforcement community. I don’t think a lot of police officers want to be out enforcing the law, arresting people for small scale marijuana possession,” said Policy and Advocacy Director for Louisiana Progress Peter Robins-Brown. “I don’t think they’re really catching any bad guys that way and it clogs up the court system and, ultimately, the jails.”

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore supports the bill. He said this step helps their office with case loads that often target minority groups.

“Historically, over time, in Baton Rouge we surely have seen in majority of the cases of simple possession of marijuana that the defendants were generally Black and Brown individuals versus white,” said Moore.

In the past, people caught with a half-ounce of weed paid a $300 fine or spent 15 days in jail on their first offense.

“We want to take our attention away from these misdemeanors cases, particularly those low-grade marijuana possession,” said Moore.

Daniels hopes the bill will benefit people and the system.

“Sometimes you really have to hit people in their pocketbooks to hit home,” said Daniels.

The law keeps current punishments for second-, third- and fourth-offense convictions for those caught with more than 14 grams, as follows:

  • Second offense: Fine up to $1,000, parish jail time up to six months (or both).
  • Third offense: Fine up to $2,500, imprisonment with or without hard labor for not more than two years.
  • Fourth offense: Fine up to $5,000, imprisonment with or without hard labor for not more than eight years.

View the full bill: Click Here

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