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Louisiana lawmakers pass bill to decriminalize marijuana

The Louisiana state Senate on Monday passed legislation that seeks to decriminalize marijuana in the state.

House Bill 652, introduced by state Rep. Cedric Glover (D), passed the upper chamber in a 20-17 vote on Monday. The bill already passed the state House in an overwhelming vote, 68-25, last month

If signed into law, the bill would reduce criminal penalties for possession of marijuana not exceeding 14 grams. In instances where the offender possesses up to that amount, they will be fined no more than $100. The law would apply to cases where the offender is on their first conviction or any subsequent conviction.

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Under existing law, the offender can be fined up to three times that amount for the same offense on a first conviction, as well as jail time.

Democrats advocating for the measure have argued the state’s current law criminalizing small amounts of marijuana is excessive and costly.

“I’m not here to talk about the pros or cons of whether marijuana should be legal in Louisiana,” state Sen. Jay Luneau (D) told The Advocate.

“This is a common-sense approach to take care of a problem that plagues us across the state. We’re spending thousands, probably millions of dollars ... keeping people in jail for offenses that they should not be in jail for,” Luneau added. 

So far, almost 30 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted similar legislation decriminalizing small amounts of weed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The passage comes not long after the House reintroduced legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, as well as expunge some marijuana convictions for nonviolent criminals.