Monday August 2, 2021
Louisiana has decriminalized possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis under a new bill. House Bill 652 went into effect on Aug 1, 2021. Those caught in possession of up to half an ounce of cannabis can be fined no more than $100.
House Bill 652 was introduced in April of this year and quickly progressed through the state legislature in two months with approval by the Committee on Judiciary C, Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice., and the Legislative Bureau. The House voted to approve HB 562 on May 11, and the state Senate followed on Jun 7, 2021, before receiving Gov. John Bel Edwards’ signature on June 14th.
Louisiana Decriminalization Before HB 652
This most recent legal revision continues a trend of incremental reform for the state. Previously, Louisiana’s possession laws were outlined by House Bill 149, under which, possession of less than 14 grams was punishable by a fine of up to $300 and 15 days in jail. Previous to HB 149, possession of up to 14 grams would have come with a fine of $500 and up to six months in jail. While both are still punishable by a fine, the absence of jail time will make a large impact on incarceration rates.
Similarly, the state’s initial medical marijuana legislation, Senate Bill 143, was unable to effectively implement medical marijuana in the state and required another bill, House Bill 819, to better define rules and regulations and allow an actual system to be built. Yet another bill, House Bill 319 allowed for medical marijuana patients to obtain smokable marijuana in the state.
Larger Possession of Cannabis in Louisiana
While small possession is now punishable by a fine without jail time, possession of more than 14 grams can still come with heavy penalties.
Though the bill does not specify what the punishment is for the first offense of possession over 14 grams, a second offense can be fined up to $1000 and sentenced to up to 6 months in jail. A third conviction of possession over 14 grams can be fined up to $2000, with imprisonment up to 2 years. Fourth and subsequent offenses go up to $5000 and 8 years of imprisonment.
Recreational Marijuana in Louisiana
State lawmakers have made recent attempts at legalization, but so far to no avail. Earlier in 2021, Republican-sponsored House Bill 699 would have allowed adults 21+ over to possess a staggering 2.5 pounds of cannabis, however, the bill did not advance after supporting legislation to tax cannabis tales failed.
Current democratic governor John Bel Edwards has acknowledged that legalization is likely to come to Louisiana eventually, but doesn’t expect it any time soon. The matter would likely be taken up by the next governor.
The rate of reform in other surrounding states is likely to impact that timeline, and it would seem that progress is on the move. Alabama has recently passed medical marijuana, while Texas is making small expansions to its system. Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana in 2020, however, the measure was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court in 2021.
House Bill 652 marks an important change for the history of cannabis in Louisiana, and will likely be followed by future reforms, albeit much slower than cannabis advocates would prefer. Stay updated with PotGuide’s Legal Page for Louisiana, we’ll be tracking reform as it happens.
What do you think is next for cannabis reform in Louisiana? Share in the comments!