BATON ROUGE, LA — A Louisiana lawmaker has filed legislation to reduce mandatory minimum penalties for certain marijuana offenses in a state with a reputation for some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country.
House Bill 103, sponsored by Rep. Austin J. Badon, Jr. (D-New Orleans), reduces penalties and incarceration time for those convicted more than once of possessing marijuana, and removes cannabis possession as an offense that qualifies for mandatory minimum sentences under the state’s habitual offender (‘three strikes’) law.
Specifically, the proposal seeks to lower the maximum penalty for a second marijuana possession offense from five years imprisonment to no more than one-year. It lowers the maximum penalty for a subsequent marijuana conviction from 20-years imprisonment to no more than two-years.
Under present law, Louisiana’s penalties for marijuana offenses are among the toughest in the nation. For first offenders, possession of less than 60 pounds of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 6 months of imprisonment. Second offenses are punishable by a fine of $250-$2500 and/or up to 5 years of imprisonment.
Both first and second offenders may be eligible for probation, which will include 32 hours of community service and a substance abuse program, the cost of probation will be paid by the defendant.
Third and subsequent offenses are punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to 20 years of imprisonment.
Distribution or cultivation of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and 5-30 years of imprisonment. Subsequent offenses are punishable by 10-60 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $100,000.
Prior offenses include any drug crime convictions, no matter where they occurred.