On Tuesday the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill proposing to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by a vote of 67-25. Winn Parish House Representative Jack McFarland, Republican, District 13 voted in favor of the Bill and Winn Parish House of Representative Gabe Firment, Republican, District 22 voted against the Bill.
Shreveport Republican Rep. Alan Seabaugh, one of the chamber’s most conservative members, reportedly joined Democrats in asking lawmakers to support the bill. Baton Rouge Rep. Denise Marcelle, Democrat, reportedly also stood with Glover to support the proposal. If House Bill 652 authored by state Rep. Cedric B. Glover (D-Shreveport) passes in the Senate it would make possessing marijuana a misdemeanor crime taking away the possibility of jail time and reducing the maximum penalty to a $100 fine for possession of 14 grams or less. Offenders would be issued a summons instead of an arrest.
“I think it’s a fairly good compromise,” Seabaugh said.
“We don’t need to be filling up our jails with misdemeanor offenses of marijuana,” Marcelle said.
The current Louisiana Law states people can face up to $300 or 15 days in jail for the first conviction of possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana. Beyond that, the penalties increase considerably, to a potential jail sentence of six months on the second conviction, two years on the third conviction and eight years on the fourth conviction.
Glover’s proposal represents one of many bills dealing with marijuana laws in Louisiana during the legislative session that ends June 10th. Another measure, by Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, would legalize marijuana entirely, allowing licensed businesses to sell the drug to people 21 and older.
While Nelson’s bill has drawn heated opposition from law enforcement, Glover’s decriminalization bill has not. The influential Louisiana Sheriffs Association didn’t take a position on HB652.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, with varying fines.
Louisiana was one of several states where arrests for pot increased from 2010 to 2018, according to a report last year by the American Civil Liberties Union. Blacks were more than three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, and arrests for marijuana made up 51% of all drug arrests in the state that year.
Voting to decriminalize possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana (67): Speaker Schexnayder, Reps Adams, Bacala, Bagley, Bourriaque, Brass, Brown, Bryant, Butler, Carpenter, W. Carter, Cormier, Coussan, Cox, Deshotel, DeVillier, DuBuisson, Duplessis, Echols, Emerson, Farnum, Freeman, Freiberg, Frieman, Gaines, Geymann, Glover, Goudeau, Green, Harris, Hilferty, Hollis, Hughes, Huval, Jefferson, Jenkins, T. Johnson, Jones, Jordan, LaCombe, Landry, Larvadain, Lyons, Marcelle, Marino, McCormick, McFarland, McMahen, D. Miller, G. Miller, Muscarello, Nelson, Newell, Orgeron, R. Owen, Pierre, Romero, Schlegel, Seabaugh, Selders, Stagni, Stefanski, Turner, Villio, White, Willard and Wright.
Voting Against HB652 (25): Reps. Amedee, Carrier, R. Carter, Crews, Edmonds, Edmonston, Firment, Fontenot, Gadberry, Garofalo, Horton, Illg, Ivey, M. Johnson, Kerner, Mack, Miguez, Mincey, C. Owen, Riser, Schamerhorn, Tarver, Thomas, Thompson and Wheat.
Not Voting (13): Reps Beaullieu, Bishop, G. Carter, Davis, Hodges, James, Magee, McKnight, Moore, Phelps, Pressly, St. Blanc, and Zeringue.