Louisiana lawmakers will not be reducing the penalties for the possession of an ounce of marijuana and have decided to maintain some of the harshest pot penalties in the country.
The sad thing? The reductions still would have made criminals out of cannabis users and those caught still faced up to six months in jail and $500 fines as before. In fact, it wouldn’t have really done much of anything – yet lawmakers still were opposed to it based on knee-jerk principles alone.
Lawmakers Tuesday spent three hours listening to public testimony on a bill that would have reduced penalties for the possession of an ounce of pot or less. Currently, possession of any amount less than 60 pounds falls in the same category, with first-time offenders facing $500 in fines and six month in jail. Second- and third-time offenders face up to five years and 20 years respectively.
The original proposed measure would have maintained the $500 fine and six-month charges for second- and third-time offenders, but it was later amended to only apply to first-time offenders. Basically: this was about as palatable as it could get for Louisiana lawmakers and they still voted against it.
The measures was killed on a 4-3 vote. Mostly because Louisiana lawmakers still believe in the War on Drugs. One state senator argued that lessening the penalties would mean that more pot would find it’s way to children. He clearly doesn’t have a problem with making that same child’s parents felons and ruining their chances of making a decent living to support their family over pot possession.
Others said that reducing marijuana possession for an ounce or less (even though it maintains jail time and fines) would push the state down the road to legalization. Seriously. These people are out of their damn minds.
Louisiana state Sen. Robert Adley, a Republican from Benton, said that the bill would have saved as much as $20 million for the state each year. He says that marijuana possession charges currently ruin lives and prevent people from getting jobs. It does more harm than good, he says. Beyond that, the current law is applied unfairly, with cops and courts hand-picking which offenders receive felony charges for repeat possession arrests.
“We’ve lost this war, y’all,” he said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I know enough about war to know when you’re losing one you better take some new direction.”