“I’m done. That’s it,” Senator JP Morrell (D-New Orleans) was overheard saying as he walked away from the podium. This frustration came after a bill seeking to reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession, potentially saving Louisiana $2.2 mil. in 2014, died on the State Senate floor Thursday.
Lawmakers have had trouble making a decision on the bill, holding that it sends “the wrong message that it’s OK to smoke marijuana in Louisiana.” Morrell said he heard lawmakers chuckling and saw them rolling their eyes as he took the podium. “I heard the groaning. I hear the inhaling and exhaling,” Morrell said, but “I think it would be appropriate to at least attempt to have a debate on this bill.”
It would seem appropriate, as Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world, beating out China, Iran, and all other states in the US. Today, a first offense of simple marijuana possession (even one joint) can result in six months in jail, second possession could mean up to five years and a $2500 fine, and a third offense could mean 20 years and up to a $5000 fine. With each inmate being worth $24.39 a day (according to a May 2012 report published by Nola.com), those 20 years really add up, and prisons are making more money, money that does not go back into the state.
The proposed bill that failed on Thursday only offered a reduced sentence on simple Marijuana possession, and would have had no effect on distribution/synthetic marijuana charges.
For now, if you or someone you know has been charged with possession of marijuana, or any illicit substance, call Bloom Legal at (504) 599-9997 for your free consultation. There’s nothing worse than going through something like this uninformed.