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Badon's Marijuana Bill Burns Out
Rep. Austin Badon's legislation that would have greatly reduced the sentences and fines for marijuana offenders in the state found a majority of support in the House of Representatives when it went to vote, but unfortunately certain restrictions will keep that bill from becoming law.
On May 21, Badon's bill went to the floor for the third reading and the final vote had a majority of the legislators present voting in favor of the legislation, with 46 yeas to the 45 nays. However, though the majority present voted in favor, any bill must pass with a simple majority of total house members. As there are 105 house members, those 46 yes' fell short of the 53 necessary to enact new law.
HB 103, had set to create more appropriate sentences for marijuana and cannabinoid offenses—sentences that could help boost the state's economy by collecting fines, and reducing the state's world-record prison population with more realistic sentencing guidelines. The law would have also created a crowbar of separation between marijuana and synthetics (which have been shown to have side-effects and can create legitimate health problems).
The law would have reduced fines and sentences for second and third time offenders, while creating even further levels by distinguishing between the third and subsequent offenses. It also would have made the distinction between those using marijuana and violent felons, who until now, have fallen under the same habitual offenders law.
For instance, the third offense comes down from a 20-year sentence and a possible $5,000 fine to a fine of $2,000, a prison term of no more than two-years, or both. Proponents saw an opportunity to reduce sentences as a benefit to the state, since Louisiana held the honor of having the highest prison population in the world, with an estimated 40,000 people locked up in the state's prisons and those prisons cost money.
The bill is in the process of being reconsidered. A bill can only be reconsidered in the same legislative session if a majority of those who voted against it permit that to happen.
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