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Louisiana Becomes First State in Deep South to Reform its Marijuana Laws

09:00 June 17, 2021
By: Madeline Taliancich

Louisiana has joined the ranks of many states around the country that have relaxed their marijuana possession laws. With the signing of House Bill 652 into law on June 15, Governor John Bel Edwards has effectively made Louisiana the first state in the Deep South and the second across the entire South to reform its criminal marijuana laws.

Although this new law does not legalize recreational marijuana, it does lessen the penalty for small possession of the drug, resulting in a maximum fine of $100 or a summons for possessing 14 grams or less. This bill will go into effect as law on August 1, meaning possession in amounts smaller than 14 grams will no longer result in an individual's incarceration.

Other legislators like Representative Ted James and former Senator Tony Giarusco have tried to pass bills like this in the past with the support of various advocacy groups like Common Sense NOLA and the Cannabis Council of Louisiana, but none have been successful until now.

"In a period during our country's history when consensus evades us on so many important issues, the Louisiana Legislature found common ground this year around the belief that the possession of small amounts of marijuana should no longer lead to either jail time or becoming a felon," State Representative Cedric Glover said. Glover penned House Bill 652 and pushed for its passing with the help of other representatives and Louisiana Progress, a progressive research, policy, and advocacy organization.

"This is a huge step forward in the movement to reform our criminal legal system," Peter Robins-Brown, Policy & Advocacy Director at Louisiana Progress, said. "No one, and no part of our society, benefits from criminalizing people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The current system of punishment has had a particularly negative effect on younger, poorer, and Blacker and browner folks, who represent the groups most likely to be targeted for harsh punishments for marijuana possession."

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