Monday, April 21, 2014
As I've blogged about a few times here, Louisiana has one of the nation's most unforgiving drug sentencing regimes and is particularly out of step when it comes to marijuana. This past Friday, the New Orleans Time-Picayune editorial board ran this op-ed highlighting the problem and calling for reform. The first few paragraphs follow:
Someone caught in Louisiana for the second time with a small amount of marijuana faces up to five years in jail and the possibility of hard labor. On a third or subsequent offense, the sentence can be 20 years with hard labor. These sorts of harsh penalties for marijuana possession and other non-violent crimes are one reason the state has the highest incarceration rate in the world.
There's a simple change that could make a significant difference.
Senate Bill 323 by Sens. J.P. Morrell and Robert Adley would make the penalty for possession of marijuana a fine of up to $100 and six months in jail on all offenses. The legislation would eliminate the enhanced penalties in current law for second and subsequent pot possession convictions.
That is a sensible reform the coalition behind the Smart on Crime legislative agenda says would save the state "millions of dollars in supervision and incarceration costs." It also would bring tremendous relief to thousands of families across Louisiana.