With cannabis decriminalization recently taking effect in Louisiana, reform advocates and lawmakers are getting the word out on the law change and what it means for state residents.
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed the decriminalization bill into law in June, stating his hesitance but acknowledging the harmful impacts of criminalized marijuana on marginalized communities and taxpayers who’ve fronted the costs of prohibition enforcement. Under the new law, possessing up to 14 grams of marijuana is now a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine, and no threat of jail time.
The measure’s chief sponsor, Rep. Cedric Glover (D), now wants to spread awareness about the reduced penalties for marijuana possession and is teaming up with Louisiana Progress, an advocacy nonprofit, in order to do so. Together, they published an FAQ on the decriminalization law which they’ve shared on social media, and they hope to sit down with law enforcement and lawmakers to further discuss the rule change.
“When I saw two city council members in my hometown of Shreveport—one conservative and one progressive—come together to decriminalize personal-use marijuana possession there, I knew it was time to take this reform to the state level,” Glover said in a press statement. “Criminalizing marijuana possession is harmful to the people of Louisiana in so many ways, but it’s been particularly harmful for Black and Brown communities, lower-income folks, and young people. My fervent hope is that this new law will finally bring some relief and a feeling of freedom to those communities.”
In its FAQ, Louisiana Progress heralded marijuana decriminalization in the state, and called for further action to legalize the plant fully.
“Marijuana decriminalization is an important victory for criminal justice reform in Louisiana, especially for the traditionally marginalized communities that have been disproportionately criminalized under prohibition,” the group’s FAQ reads. “But we need to keep fighting to end marijuana prohibition altogether. Doing so could be hugely beneficial, including bringing dozens of new small businesses and hundreds or even thousands of new jobs to Louisiana.”
Gov. Edwards signed another cannabis-related bill into law in June that allows qualifying patients registered in Louisiana’s medical marijuana program to legally smoke cannabis flower. The year before, Edwards signed another medical cannabis bill into law that significantly expanded patient access to the state’s medical marijuana program by allowing physicians to recommend the treatment for any condition they see fit. But while the governor is open to such incremental reforms, he’s indicated that cannabis would not be legalized in the state under his watch, though he does expect the reform to pass some time in the future. One such attempt to legalize adult-use marijuana in Louisiana faltered in the House this session after lawmakers couldn’t reach an agreement on a complementary bill regarding cannabis sales taxes.
“It’s on the march, and that certainly might happen here in Louisiana,” Edwards said about the stalled effort. “However, I would be surprised if there’s a consensus in the legislature to do that while I’m governor.”