A bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Louisiana is heading to the governor’s desk.
The Senate gave final approval to the decriminalization proposal, sponsored by Rep. Cedric Glover (D), in a 20-17 vote on Monday. It would make it so possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis would be punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time. The House approved the measure by a vote of 67-25 last month.
Last week, lawmakers also sent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) a separate bill to let patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.
The incremental cannabis victories come weeks after an effort to more broadly legalize recreational marijuana in the state stalled in the House of Representatives.
“This is a common-sense approach to take care of a problem that plagues us across the state,” Sen. Jay Luneau (D) said before the vote. “We’re spending thousands, probably millions of dollars, statewide on an annual basis putting people in jail for simple offenses that they shouldn’t be jail for.”
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Edwards said in a radio appearance last month that while full marijuana legalization hit a roadblock this year, he does believe it “is going to happen in Louisiana eventually.” He also spoke about the decriminalization and medical cannabis flower bills as examples of reform’s general momentum—indicating that he is open to signing them.
The developments on various cannabis-related legislation come after recent polling showed that constituents in some of the most firmly Republican districts in the state support legalizing marijuana.
When it comes to full ending prohibition, while advocates generally expected resistance from Edwards, who has repeatedly expressed opposition to the reform, he did say in April that he has “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.
Last year, the legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.
Two other recent polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—have found that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.