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Louisiana Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances To Senate Floor, One Step From Governor’s Desk

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A bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Louisiana that already passed the House was approved in a Senate committee on Tuesday, sending it to the full chamber for final passage.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Cedric Glover (D), 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. It cleared the Senate Judiciary C Committee in a 3-2 vote.

“House Bill 652 it seeks to address a problem that I think many of us have recognized over the years,” Glover said in opening remarks, adding that while opinions on full marijuana legalization vary, there’s widespread acceptance that low-level possession should not lead to incarceration or felony convictions.

If the decriminalization bill is approved on the Senate floor without amendments it will head to the governor’s desk.

This development comes as Louisiana lawmakers consider a number of separate marijuana bills this session, including one that would allow patients to access smokeable cannabis products. That measure has also passed the House and is pending action on the Senate floor.

A complementary bill to tax flower marijuana is also set to be taken up by the Senate.

The House additionally passed a resolution on Monday requesting the legislature conduct a formal study on the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization prior to the start of the 2022 session.

While advocates are encouraged by the modest reforms advancing, there is disappointment that a bill to enact adult-use legalization was pulled by its sponsor this month after the House defeated a companion bill to tax recreational sales.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said in a radio appearance last week that while full legalization didn’t advance, 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, perhaps signaling his willingness to sign Glover’s legislation if it lands on his desk.

Advocates generally expected resistance to adult-use legalization from Edwards, who has repeatedly expressed opposition to the reform, but he did say last month that he had “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.

Edwards signed the measure in June 2020 and it took effect weeks later.

Several 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.

Legal Marijuana States Have Generated Nearly $8 Billion In Tax Revenue Since Recreational Sales Launched, Report Finds

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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