Louisiana: Marijuana Law Changes August 1, 2021

Brittany Enn

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House Bill 652 took effect August 1, 2021, lowering penalties for possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana to a $100 fine. The measure, Act No. 247, was signed into law by Democratic Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on June 14, 2021. The $100 fine is for the first and subsequent offenses, meaning if you were found with up to 14 grams more than once the penalty would be another added $100 fine each time.

Fines and penalties for possession of more than 14 grams of marijuana have not changed and will include the same consequences as before House Bill 652's effective date.

“This is a much-needed policy change for Louisiana,” NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf said. “The enactment of this legislation is great progress toward ending the racially discriminatory policy of branding otherwise law-abiding Louisianans as criminals for minor marijuana possession offenses when law enforcement should instead be focusing on fighting legitimate crime.”

John Bel Edwards made it clear that this is not a decriminalization issue, but an issue of the need to reduce penalties that previously led taxpayers to jail or prison for small amounts of marijuana. Governor Edwards states:

“I have signed HB 652, which contrary to the narrative developed in the press and elsewhere, does not decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, 14 grams or less. Instead, anyone convicted of this crime will now be subject to a maximum penalty of $100 instead of being exposed to parish prison time. This is not a decision I took lightly. In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly. This measure passed Louisiana’s Legislature with bipartisan support following a robust discussion of the toll of over incarceration on our people and our state. Taking this action is another step forward for Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts.”

Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in 18 states and Washington D.C., and legalized for medical use in 36 states.

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