Committee rejects reduced pot penalties bill
BATON ROUGE - Lawmakers deferred a bill to reduce criminal penalties for marijuana today at the state Capitol, likely killing the bill for the legislative session.
The Senate panel voted 4-3 to reject Senate Bill 323, sponsored by Sen. J. P. Morrell, D-New Orleans. It would have changed penalties for all marijuana offenses to a maximum $100 fine or six months jail time, which Morrell said would save $23 million a year.
The vote came after heavy opposition by Louisiana sheriffs and district attorneys, who called efforts to reduce penalties just another way to de-criminalize marijuana. The group earlier came out in opposition to a similar bill from Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.
Louisiana's current penalties for marijuana include possible life sentences for repeat offenders. Several other states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and Kentucky have already reduced their marijuana penalties. A number of other marijuana-related bills are before the Louisiana legislature this year, including a bill to legalize medicinal marijuana in the state.
News 2's Jason Newton was at the hearing, and will have more reaction to the decision tonight.