The Louisiana state Senate passed a bill Monday that would decriminalize marijuana in the state, making the penalty for possession a misdemeanor if signed into law by the governor.
Following the passage of the legislation in the state House last month by a 68-25 vote, House Bill 652 was passed the upper chamber with a vote of 20-17.
If signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, criminal penalties for possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana would be reduced to a misdemeanor, resulting in a fine of up to 100 dollars and no jail time for offenders.
The state's existing law can result in first-time offenders enduring fines of up to 300 dollars and time behind bars for the same offense.
State Sen. Jay Luneau (D) said, according to the Daily Advertiser:
This is a common-sense approach to take care of a problem that plagues us across the state. We’re spending thousands, probably millions of dollars ... keeping people in jail for offenses that they should not be in jail for.
Currently, 27 states and Washington, D.C. have implemented legislation decriminalizing minor amounts of marijuana possession, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Peter Robins-Brown, policy and advocacy director of Louisiana Progress, testified during committee debate that the criminalization of weed is "a waste of law enforcement resources" and it "undermines trust between communities and police."
The Louisiana Senate passing the bill follows the U.S. House of Representatives reintroducing legislation aiming to legalize marijuana across the country and clear some marijuana convictions for nonviolent criminals.
The Biden administration was discovered in March to have terminated staffers for past cannabis use despite initially ensuring them that recreational use would not disqualify them for White House employment. Exceptions were not made for staffers whose pot use was exclusive to states, as well as the District of Columbia, where marijuana is legal.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who had previously admitted to smoking cannabis, did not suffer any consequences.