Bill softens marijuana penalties

The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to soften some of the criminal penalties for offenders convicted of simple possession of marijuana.

House Bill 103, sponsored by state Rep. Austin Badon would also stop prosecutors from using simple marijuana possession charges to send offenders to prison for long sentences, including life, under the state’s habitual offender law.

HB103 would further allow defendants already charged under the Habitual Offender Law to file a motion to have their sentence reconsidered.

Current law requires a third or subsequent conviction of marijuana possession to be punished by up to 20 years in prison. The felony conviction can be used to enhance the prison sentence when the offender has at least two other felony convictions.

Badon, D-New Orleans, said he wants to keep the penalty for a first conviction the same as current law — a fine up to $500 and a possible six months in jail.

A second conviction would carry up to a $500 fine and a year in jail.

A third conviction would carry penalties of up to $2,000 and two years in jail.

A fourth conviction would carry penalties up to a $2,000 fine and five years in jail. The bill heads to the Senate next for further consideration.