There is high hope for people convicted of misdemeanor charges due to possession of marijuana. This is after lawmaker Rep. Cedric Glover introduced the cannabis expungement bill to the house. Glover was formerly the mayor of Shreveport. If the bill is passed and signed into law, the convicts will be expunged from the records, and their fees will be waived.
Cannabis was decriminalized in August 2021. Penalties were also reduced to $100 if a person was found to possess a maximum of 14gms of marijuana. The bill that helped decriminalize marijuana in Louisiana was also sponsored by Glover. The Louisiana legislature has also been aiming to improve the medical cannabis program in the state.
From January 1, a medical cannabis law took effect. According to the law, patients were allowed to access cannabis flowers. Behind the scenes, the legislators are working on laws to help increase the number of issued licenses for pharmacies and farmers. Practicing nurses will be able to prescribe medical marijuana to patients if the laws come into effect. The lawmakers have until June 6 to discuss the bill and pass it.
Expungement is not automatic
Although the marijuana conviction expungement bill might pass, those convicted will not have their records expunged automatically. The law will elaborate on the process that the convicts must follow. According to the proposed law, the affected person will be expunged if they file a motion to remove their record. This shall include the records of arrest and conviction of wrongdoing after they were found to have cannabis, THC, or chemical derivatives.
If their records are removed, some of the associated fees will also be removed. An example of the fees is the $550 charged by the court for misdemeanor expungement. The proposed marijuana expungement law further states that. “A person who has been arrested and convicted in court for being found in possession of cannabis, THC, or chemical derivatives shall not be required to pay the processing fee.”
If the cannabis expungement bill passes, it will be upon the convicted person to file for expungement. If they don’t, their files will not be removed, and they will be required to serve their full jail term if they are still in jail. The convict may file the form through their lawyer or any other person.
The penalty for people found in possession of a maximum of 14gms of cannabis was reduced in early 2021 after the city council of Shreveport passed an ordinance for the reduction. The council is expected to meet and cast votes to support bill number 774. The bill was proposed by the legislature and expected to be favorable to marijuana users. The laws will pave the way for the procedures that must be followed when convicted persons want to apply for expungement.
Expungement is crucial, especially when people who have previously been convicted begin to seek employment. If their criminal records do not get to be removed, it becomes hard for them to get employed.
In 2021, the Louisiana lawmakers passed a bill that would allow patients to possess smokable medical cannabis products. The house had earlier passed the bill, but upon reaching the Senate, it was amended. This meant it had to be taken back to the house of representatives for another vote before heading to Governor John Bel Edwards’ office.
The bill expanded the existing law because it would give patients access to the whole plant flower and smoking. The existing law then only allowed patients to vaporize cannabis products through a metered-dose inhaler. Another bill was passed, which allowed the state government to tax medical cannabis flowers.
Even with all these laws, it was still criminal for a Louisianan to be found in possession of up to 14gms of marijuana. The penalties suffered were largely severe. People convicted for the first time were fined $300 and imprisoned for 15 days. If the same person was found in possession of the product for a second time, they would face more severe penalties.
The imprisonment for repeat offenders was 8 years maximum. A repeat offender meant being arrested up to four times. If the offender was arrested the fifth time, the sentence was more severe. A few people had received life imprisonment for having marijuana worth $20.
The signing of the marijuana decriminalization bill gave the state a better approach to dealing with issues of marijuana arrests and convictions. The bill was passed with bipartisan support, which was an impressive sign of change in how lawmakers approached the issue.
Three areas had already voted for the decriminalization of marijuana. These were Shreveport, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge. However, the bill signed by Edwards expanded the decriminalization law to the entire Louisiana state. In the entire country, twenty states, including Washington DC, have already decriminalized cannabis possession.
According to the law, the smokable medical cannabis is not required to meet what is defined as a medical grade in the other forms of medical marijuana. Although the law allowed people to possess marijuana for up to 14 grams, no law gave direction on what would happen to people who had been convicted before the passing of this law.
Their records were still available, and employers could access them if the person was seeking employment. There are still people serving their jail terms after they were convicted of possessing marijuana that did not exceed 14 grams.
The marijuana conviction expungement bill introduced by Representative Cedric Glover was brought to the house at the right time. There would be a gap in the law where on one part, the law allows possession of cannabis while, on the other part, there are people whose records are still available to the public. It is now nine months since the decriminalization law took effect in the state.
Louisianans can only hope the cannabis expungement bill will be discussed and passed fast to serve justice to the many citizens who have suffered under the previous laws. House Bill 774 in Baton Rouge will set the platform for all Louisianan’s convicted of wrongfully possessing cannabis to file for expungement of their marijuana-related criminal records.