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Louisiana lawmakers back decriminalization of marijuana; bill heads to governor’s desk

Louisiana lawmakers have agreed to eliminate the possibility of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana, a sharp change in the state’s historically hard stance against the drug and the latest indication of shifting attitudes surrounding pot at the State Capitol.

The state Senate on Monday voted 20-17 to approve House Bill 652 by Rep. Cedric Glover, a Shreveport Democrat, to decriminalize the possession of up to a half-ounce, or 14 grams, of marijuana. The measure needed at least 20 votes to pass.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, presented the bill for Glover in the Senate, arguing the state was wasting money locking people up for small-time pot offenses. He said many people’s lives are upended when they go to jail because they can’t pay the current $300 fine for a first offense of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

“I’m not here to talk about the pros or cons of whether marijuana should be legal in Louisiana,” Luneau said. “This is a common-sense approach to take care of a problem that plagues us across the state. We’re spending thousands, probably millions of dollars … keeping people in jail for offenses that they should not be in jail for.”  [Read more at The Advocate]

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