Louisiana marijuana decriminalization bill nears passage

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FILE – In this Aug. 15, 2019 file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif. In what could be a temporary victory for California’s legal cannabis industry, a state judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to overturn a state rule allowing home deliveries statewide, even into communities that banned commercial marijuana sales. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A bid to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use moved one step away from the governor’s desk Tuesday, after a Senate committee narrowly agreed to send the proposal to the full Senate for debate.

The proposal by Democratic Rep. Cedric Glover, of Shreveport, would make possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana — a half-ounce — a misdemeanor carrying a fine up to $100, even for repeat offenses, and end the possibility of jail time.

“Possession of small amounts of marijuana should not lead you to jail, and it should not lead you to becoming a felon,” Glover said.

A Senate judiciary committee voted 3-2 for the measure. The proposal already won bipartisan House support in a 67-25 vote. If the full Senate agrees to the measure without any changes, the bill would head to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has indicated he’d sign it into law.

Supporters say ending jail time for possession of small amounts of cannabis will stop clogging up the state’s criminal justice system with people arrested for minor offenses and focus police efforts on other criminal activity.

The only person to speak against the proposal Tuesday was Will Hall, with the Louisiana Baptist Convention. He said frequent use of marijuana is damaging to the brain.

A separate effort aimed at legalizing recreational marijuana failed in the House, ending that debate for the session and focusing attention on Glover’s decriminalization proposal.

Voting for Glover’s bill were Sens. Regina Barrow, a Baton Rouge Democrat; Rick Ward, a Port Allen Republican; and Franklin Foil, a Baton Rouge Republican who chairs the committee. Voting against it were Sens. Mark Abraham, a Lake Charles Republican, and Beth Mizell, a Franklinton Republican.

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The bill is filed as House Bill 652.

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