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Louisiana ends jail time for small amounts of marijuana

BATON ROUGE, LA — People in Louisiana caught with small amounts of marijuana will soon face a misdemeanor fine and no possibility of jail time, under a bill that Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Tuesday he has signed into law. 

The new law will take effect Aug. 1, 2021.

The measure sponsored by Shreveport Rep. Cedric Glover, a Democrat, won narrow, bipartisan support in the legislative session that ended Thursday. With the Democratic governor’s signature, the new law will take effect Aug. 1. 

Glover’s bill makes possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana — a half-ounce — a misdemeanor crime carrying a fine up to $100 with no possibility of jail time, even for repeat offenses. 

“This is not a decision I took lightly,” Edwards said in his statement announcing the bill signing.

He described the legislation as another step in Louisiana’s “criminal justice reform efforts.” 

Possession of up to a half-ounce will be a misdemeanor, with a $100 fine and no possibility of jail time—even for repeat offenses.

“In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly,” Edwards said.

Several municipalities around Louisiana already had switched to fines, rather than arrests for possession of small amounts of cannabis, and Louisiana has had a legal medical marijuana program for several years. Still, opponents of the bill raised concerns that lessening the penalties for marijuana would lead to broader substance abuse issues around Louisiana.

While the House and Senate decided to end jail time for small amounts of cannabis, lawmakers refused to legalize recreational marijuana.

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