By Emily Lane
A New Orleans lawmaker moved his bill reducing penalties for simple marijuana possession past its first hurdle in the Louisiana Legislature Wednesday (May 6). State Rep. Austin Badon’s legislation, House Bill 149, drops the maximum sentence for second-offense marijuana possession from five years in prison to two years. It would also drop the maximum sentence for third-offense possession from 20 years to five. Subsequent convictions could allow for a maximum sentence up to eight years.
“This is a well-studied measure to produce reform and reduce recidivism,” Badon said. Badon has brought the same or similar legislation to the Legislature for nearly a half decade. It advanced Wednesday from the House’s Administration of Criminal Justice by a vote of 10-4 and now heads to the House floor before moving to the Senate side for consideration.
Under current law, a first-time offender could be jailed up to six months — that sentence would stay the same under Badon’s proposal. Fines would be also be reduced. Maximum fines for second offenses would be reduced from $2,000 to $500; and for subsequent offenses from $5,000 to $2,000.
The bill could save taxpayers approximately $12 million over five years, Badon said.