Marijuana possession would not be included in Louisiana’s draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws if a bill introduced earlier this week manages to find approval in the state legislature.
State Rep. Austin Badon, a democrat from New Orleans, introduced House Bill 103 on Tuesday which in addition to removing marijuana possession a qualifying offense for the state’s three strikes law.
Badon’s bill would reduce penalties for second-, third- and fourth-time marijuana convictions of 60 pounds or less. Currently, second offenders are fined up to $2,000 and could face up to five years in jail. Badon’s proposal drops that to a maximum fine $500 and up to one year in jail. Third offenders currently are fined up to $5,000 and face up to 20 years in jail. The proposal would drop that to $2,000 and up to two years in jail. The big step is dropping the fourth conviction from a mandatory 20-year sentence to a fine of up to $2,000 and a maximum of five years in jail.
|Louisiana State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.|
The bill is similar to ordinances passed in New Orleans in 2010 that made marijuana possession a municipal offense, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Currently, anyone with three previous felonies to their name would be facing a mandatory 20 years in prison if they were caught with even the smallest amount of herb. And that happens. Take Patrick Carney of Covington, Louisiana. He was given 30 years in prison for selling just $25 worth of pot, according to the Times-Picayune.
Unfortunately, the bill might not have enough time to get passed. The Louisiana legislature adjourns for the session on April 8. And as the Times-Picayune points out, the bill also includes reducing penalties for people caught with synthetic marijuana like K2 and Spice – substances that have been banned by the state since 2010.
Louisiana law is different from the rest of the country in that possession of less than 60 pounds is not classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, but carries with it up to 6 months in prison and/or a $500 fine on first offense according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Anything over 60 pounds is a felony, with a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. Distribution of any amount of marijuana is also not considered a misdemeanor or a felony, but will still get you a minimum of five years in jail and up to $50,000 in fines.