Bill To Reduce Marijuana Penalties In Louisiana Passes Full Senate

LOUISIANA:  A proposal to soften Louisiana’s harsh marijuana laws by reducing penalties for possession continues to gain steam in the Louisiana Legislature.

The Senate voted 27-12 Monday (May 25) to advance legislation that would create a new penalty system for marijuana possession dealing with amounts less than 2.5 pounds.

The measure’s sponsor, J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said his bill (SB 241) brings Louisiana’s marijuana laws closer in line with other states, “in a way that is more humane.” For example, the bill reduces the maximum penalty for possession from 20 years in prison to eight, raises the threshold for a felony-level possession charge and adds a second-chance provision for first-time offenders.

Under current law, the maximum penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana up to 60 pounds are a $500 fine and six moths in jail for a first offense (a misdemeanor), a $2,500 fine and five years in prison for a second offense (a felony); and a $5,000 fine and a 20-year prison term for a third or subsequent offense (a felony).

Arkansas Governor Plans To Pardon Son For 2003 Marijuana Conviction

ARKANSAS:  Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe plans to pardon his own son for a 2003 felony conviction for marijuana possession.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for the Democratic governor, told the Associated Press that the pardon would be among a set issued by Beebe next month.

Kyle Beebe, now 34, served three years of supervised probation, paid $1,150 in fines and court costs, and had his driver’s license suspended. At the time of his son’s arrest, the elder Beebe was a few months into a four-year term as the state’s Attorney General.

The governor told KATV Wednesday that he would have pardoned his son earlier, but “he took his sweet time about asking.”


Baltimore Marijuana Diversion Program Nearly Triples In Size

MARYLAND:  City prosecutors have been offering more people charged with marijuana possession a chance to avoid conviction through community service, and recently released data shows that defendants are taking the deal at a rate that has tripled in the course of a year.

Close to 4,500 went into the program, known as “diversion,” in 2013 — up from about 1,400 the year before.

“This is something, frankly, we’re very proud about,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said.

The association that represents Maryland’s 24 state’s attorneys recently voted to oppose pushes in Annapolis to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, but the growing use of diversion programs show how city prosecutors are softening their approach.