Press Release: Bill Amending Marijuana Penalties Has Bipartisan Support

Louisianans for Responsible Reform

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Louisiana is closer to responsible sentencing for minor marijuana offenses with bipartisan legislation filed last week in advance of the upcoming Legislative Session, and Louisianans for Responsible Reform (LRR) is encouraging lawmakers to get behind the bill.

State Senators Robert Adley (R-Benton) and J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) jointly filed a bill that will amend existing penalties for simple marijuana possession, saving taxpayers millions of dollars while helping families stay intact.

Senate Bill 323 establishes the penalty for simple possession of marijuana at a maximum of six months in jail and a $100 fine.  Under current law, a second-offense simple possession conviction can result in fines up to five years in prison and a $2,000 fine, and a third offense can result in up to 20 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

"Existing penalties in Louisiana are not just draconian, they're counter-productive," said Brian Welsh, executive director of LRR.  "Branding people as felons for a second offense of simple possession of marijuana ruins lives, breaks up families, and costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year with unnecessary expenses within the justice system."

Welsh said recent studies show the current costs of prosecuting and incarcerating low-level marijuana offenders is more than $20 million each year in Louisiana.

"What Louisiana is currently doing is harmful to the state treasury and to Louisiana's working families," Welsh said.  "Felony arrests inhibit employment and earnings potential for offenders who simply possess a small amount of marijuana for personal use.  The costs are tremendous - and ridiculous."

Welsh said LRR's goal is not legalization of marijuana, but the imposition of reasonable sentences for offenders.

"People who break laws pay penalties," Welsh said.  "That's a central - and simple - pillar of American justice.  But our justice system also holds onto the concept of punishments that fit the crimes.  Louisiana's current penalties for this crime are excessive and are out of line not only with other Southern states but with the mood of the public.

"We strongly encourage the Legislature to embrace the Adley-Morrell bill."

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Media Contact:

James Hartman