A bill to decriminalize cannabis in Louisiana went into effect on Aug. 1.
House Bill 652, which Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law on June 15, removes the threat of jail time and reduces the maximum penalty to a $100 fine for first-time offenders who possess up to 14 grams of cannabis.
As previously reported by Cannabis Business Times, under the state's previous legislation, individuals who possessed an ounce of cannabis or less could be charged with 15 days in jail and a $300 fine for the first conviction. Following that, penalties would increase for the second, third and fourth convictions.
Now, Louisiana has joined several other states that have implemented decriminalization bills, and made history by becoming one of few Southern states to pass similar legislation, Lafourche Gazette reported.
State Rep. Cedric Glover, who sponsored the bill, said, "When I saw two city council members in my hometown of Shreveport—one conservative and one progressive—find the common ground needed to come together and find the way to decriminalize personal-use marijuana possession there, I knew it was time to take this reform to the state level. Criminalizing marijuana possession is harmful to the people of Louisiana in so many ways, but it's been particularly harmful for black and brown communities, lower-income folks, and young people. My fervent hope is that this new law will finally bring some relief and a feeling of freedom to those communities."
Policy and Advocacy Director at Louisiana Progress, Peter Robins-Brown, also weighed in on the legislation, stating it’s "the first step in modernizing marijuana policy in Louisiana, and it's another milestone in the ongoing effort to address our incarceration crisis, which has trapped so many people in a cycle of poverty and prison."
"Now it's time to make sure that everyone knows their rights under this new law and that law enforcement officers understand how to properly implement it," Brown added.