Bill to decriminalize marijuana in Louisiana Senate

The bill would make having up to 14 grams of marijuana a misdemeanor with a $100 fine and no jail time.
Updated: May. 29, 2021 at 11:35 AM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - A bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana is now in the Louisiana Senate but its drawing strong feelings from people and police.

The bill would make having up to 14 grams of marijuana a misdemeanor with a $100 fine and no jail time, even for repeat offenses. The bill is drawing mixed reviews.

“It provides for the decriminalization, decriminalization statewide of marijuana with 14 grams or less so it eliminates any chance of a criminal penalty or replaces it with a fine,” said the President of Louisiana Cannabis Retailers Association, Tim Hitt.

However, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew said if someone fails to pay the fine they could still face jail time.

Hitt said it would be a step in the right direction for Louisiana.

“Keeping people not having a criminal record, right. So that’s the main thing because simple possession arrest with marijuana can affect schooling, it can affect jobs, anything else, even getting an apartment. So it’s a good move. It’s a very good social move for the public to have,” said Hitt.

He said Louisiana has the second-highest incarceration rate in the country and this bill would help reduce the jail population.

“It’s a shame to put people in jail for something that in 12 other states, it’s absolutely legal and people are making a profit off of it,” said Hitt.

West Monroe Police Chief Jeff Terrell said he’s concerned about impaired drivers on the road.

“Currently, you know, we work a lot of DWI’S. Typically, most of our DWI’s are from alcohol. But here, you know, the last few years, it’s progressed towards drugs and towards marijuana,” said Chief Terrell.

Chief Terrell said they also don’t have enough resources to enforce it. He said a drug recognition expert must determine if someone has been driving under the influence of marijuana. He said his department only has one of those... plus the sheriff’s office and state police only have a couple.

Terrell said rather than decriminalizing marijuana, they should look at what’s causing people to want to get high.

“Is it a mental health issue, addiction issues? Those are things that we need to be trying to solve,” said Terrell.

Right now, having up to 14 grams of marijuana carries a $300 fine and up to 15 days in jail for your first offense.

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