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New legislation could lessen marijuana offenses

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MONROE, la (KNOE 8 News) - Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently allow the use of medical marijuana. Colorado is the first and only state to legalize it for recreational use. And even in Louisiana, law makers are working to lighten the penalties associated with marijuana use and exclude marijuana users from the habitual offender law.

Representative Marcus Hunter said the issue should be more about rehabilitation and less about locking offenders away.

"You are talking about those types of people that end up spending time in jail and get no rehabilitative measures. All you're doing is really detoxing them or giving them a little lay over until they get out of jail and turn right back around and re offend," Hunter said.  

Representative Austin Bardon out of New Orleans is introducing a bill to lessen the blow of marijuana offenses. Right now, a third conviction of marijuana could land you in jail for up to 20 years. Under the new legislation, a third offense will carry a maximum of five years and a fourth conviction could carry eight years.

On Tuesday, a legislative panel will meet in Baton Rouge to discuss many marijuana issues including legalization.

House Representative Frank Hoffman of West Monroe said he doesn't agree with the idea of legalizing any illegal drugs, but said he will keep an open mind about this piece of legislation.

"It's too early for me to say. I'm not encouraged to hear about that and I don't know that it would be very popular. But I think we need to look at the details and see like we do with anything," Hoffman said.  

Hunter on the other hand is firm in his belief of rehabilitation and said his opinion doesn't matter when it comes to legalizing pot.

"I'm going to say the same thing about legalizing that, I said about any other crime, if it's something the people want to take to vote, then it would be entirely up to them," Hunter said.  

The bill has a long way to go before it becomes a law and it may not even get a vote. We will see this spring. 

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