Louisiana Marijuana Laws

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry has vetoed legislation, House Bill 391, that sought to provide the executive branch with the ability to grant expedited pardons to those convicted of a first-time marijuana possession offense.

Under the proposal, the Governor would have been able to provide pardons to eligible offenders absent a prior recommendation by the state’s Board of Pardons. House members had previously passed the bill by a vote of 63 to 30. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 31 to 7.

In his veto message, the Governor said that he was rejecting the bill, in part, because he perceived it to be “an attempt to have Louisiana accept President Biden’s invitation to the states to join his soft-on-crime, no-consequences-for-criminals agenda.”

In December, President Joe Biden issued an expanded pardon proclamation for those seeking forgiveness for certain federal marijuana-related convictions. (The President had previously issued a more limited proclamation in 2022 and the Justice Department has opened an online portal for eligible applicants.) In his proclamations, he also encouraged Governors to issue similar pardons to those with state-level cannabis convictions.

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano criticized the Governor’s decision. “Governors and lawmakers around the country are taking steps to right the past wrongs of cannabis criminalization. This includes efforts to end the stigma associated with past marijuana convictions and to provide millions of Americans with a fresh start. It’s a shame to see Louisiana’s Governor taking the state in a different direction.”

Governor Landry’s veto comes the same week that Democrat Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland signed an executive order pardoning over 175,000 Maryland residents with misdemeanor marijuana-related convictions. Governor Moore’s action came months after Massachusetts’ Democratic Gov. Maura Healey issued a similar pardon proclamation. In recent years, states have taken steps to either pardon or expunge an estimated 2.5 million people with cannabis-related convictions, according to data compiled by NORML.

Separate legislation that seeks to decriminalize the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia is also awaiting action from Gov. Landry. If enacted, first-time offenders will face a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. Under current law, the possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia is punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine

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