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Proposed bill would lessen jail time for simple marijuana possession

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BATON ROUGE - A proposed bill making its way through the Capitol could mean lighter sentences for simple marijuana possession convictions.

Representative Austin Badon (D.) of New Orleans introduced HB 103. It passed the house but still needs two-thirds approval from the Senate.

"My bill only addresses the personal use of marijuana. It has nothing to do with intent to distribute," Badon said.

Current law gives criminals convicted of simple possession a second time a maximum five year sentence and $2500 fine. Third and subsequent offenders could get a maximum 20 years and a $5000.

The bill would change the maximum sentence for second convictions to two years, third convictions would carry a five year sentence and subsequent convictions would carry an eight years.

"Take some of that money from corrections and that we're basically wasting through simple marijuana conventions and utilize it that money for more important things," Badon said.

"It's just a bite at the apple," Senator Bodi White (R.) of Baton Rouge. "We'll be faced with laws in years to come to legalize marijuana in Louisiana."

Despite White's opposition, the bill passed by a 4-2 vote in a Senate Judiciary Committee and could be heard on the floor. White believes the bill isn't fixing a problem because he says there isn't one to begin with.

"I don't know anyone who's went to prison for a very long time," he said.

Those who want to see the bill pushed through agree not many go to jail for simple possession, but they still want to see the amount of time you spend behind bars lessened.

"It's not just exclusively a question of whether or not they end up being imprisoned for that possession offense but sometimes they do," drug reform advocate David Brown said. "Even just a few days in jail can be disruptive."

The bill only has two days to pass the Senate.

Governor Jindal said he would only review the bill if it came to his desk.

 

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