The governor of Louisiana has signed a bill into law that will streamline expungements for people with first-time marijuana possession convictions.
About two weeks after the measure from Rep. Delisha Boyd (D) advanced through the legislature, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) gave final approval on Monday.
The legislation makes it so people who are convicted of possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis as a first offense can petition the courts to wipe their record after 90 days from the time of the conviction.
That would significantly speed up the timeline for relief, as current law maintains that people must wait at least five years before petitioning for expungement of certain records.
The bill was previously amended in a House committee to specify that eligible misdemeanor marijuana possession cases cannot involve more than 14 grams. An original provision was also removed that would have waived court processing fees for first-time cannabis expungements.
Now the measure, the effective date for which is August 1, sets a $300 cap on fees for the record clearing.
“The clerk shall immediately direct the collected processing fees provided…to the sheriff and the district attorney, and the processing fee amount shall be remitted immediately upon receipt in equal proportions to the office of the district attorney and the sheriff’s general fund,” the bill text says.
Further, the legislation includes a template for a motion to expunge that people can fill out and submit to the court of jurisdiction.
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Seven in 10 Louisianans support legalizing recreational marijuana possession for adults—and nine in 10 back medical cannabis legalization—according to a survey released earlier this month.
While marijuana legalization has stalled in the Louisiana legislature, lawmakers have taken several steps to reform cannabis laws and build on the state’s medical marijuana program in recent sessions.
For example, a bill recently cleared a House committee that would ensure that people remain eligible for unemployment benefits if they’re registered medical cannabis patients.
Legislators separately defeated a measure in committee that would have repealed a rarely used tax on illegal marijuana sales.
A Louisiana legislative task force approved rules late last year providing worker protections for medical cannabis patients.
Also, regulators last year decided to temporarily continue to allow doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations via telemedicine.
Last session, Edwards signed a slew of marijuana reform bills, including one key measure that would expand the number of medical dispensaries that can operate in the state and another to prevent police from searching people’s homes over the smell of cannabis.
While legalization has yet to be enacted in the Pelican State, Edwards did sign a bill in 2021 to decriminalize possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis by making it punishable by a $100 fine without jail time.