Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed legislation into law to remove the threat of jail time for low-level marijuana possession offenses.

House Bill 652 reduces the penalty for the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana for first-time as well as subsequent offenses to a $100 fine only. While there would be no possibility of jail time under the bill, these offenses would still be classified as misdemeanors.

“This is not a decision I took lightly,” Gov. Edwards said in a statement. “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.”

The new law will take effect on August 1, 2021.

“This is a much needed policy change for Louisiana,” said NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf. “The passage 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.” 

Separate legislation to repeal the ban on smoking medical cannabis flower and a measure requesting “a study of the effects of legalizing recreational cannabis usage” also await action from Gov. Edwards.

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