A new Louisiana law takes effect today, August 1, 2021, eliminating the possibility of jail time for low-level marijuana possession offenses.

House Bill 652 amends state law so that offenses involving the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana are punishable by a fine of no more than $100 – no arrest and no jail time. The fine-penalty remains in place regardless of whether the offender has any prior marijuana convictions. 

Enhanced penalties and jail time remain in place for repeat offenders who are convicted of possessing more than 14 grams of marijuana. 

Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed the partial decriminalization measure into law in June.

According to an analysis conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, African Americans are arrested for low-level marijuana violations in Louisiana at three-times the rates of whites. In some cities, like Baton Rouge, Blacks are arrested for violating marijuana laws at six-times the rates of whites.

“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.” 

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation either legalizing or decriminalizing the possession of marijuana for adults.

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