The Louisiana House of Representatives has approved a bill to streamline expungements for people with first-time marijuana possession convictions.
The legislation from Rep. Delisha Boyd (D) cleared the chamber in a 69-30 vote on Tuesday, sending it to the Senate.
It makes it so people who are convicted of possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis as a first offense can petition the courts to wipe their record after 90 days from the time of the conviction.
That would significantly speed up the timeline for relief, as current law maintains that people must wait at least five years before petitioning for expungement of certain records.
The bill was amended in committee to specify that eligible misdemeanor marijuana possession cases cannot involve more than 14 grams. An original provision was also removed that would have waived court processing fees for first-time cannabis expungements.
Now the measure sets a $300 cap on fees for the record clearing.
“The clerk shall immediately direct the collected processing fees provided…to the sheriff and the district attorney, and the processing fee amount shall be remitted immediately upon receipt in equal proportions to the office of the district attorney and the sheriff’s general fund,” the bill text says.
Further, the legislation includes a template for a motion to expunge that people can fill out and submit to the court of jurisdiction.
While marijuana legalization has stalled in the Louisiana legislature, lawmakers have taken several steps to reform cannabis laws and build on the state’s medical marijuana program in recent sessions.
For example, a bill recently cleared a House committee that would ensure that people remain eligible for unemployment benefits if they’re registered medical cannabis patients.
Legislators separately defeated a measure in committee that would have repealed a rarely used tax on illegal marijuana sales.
A Louisiana legislative task force approved rules late last year providing worker protections for medical cannabis patients.
Also, regulators last year decided to temporarily continue to allow doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations via telemedicine.
Last session, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed a slew of marijuana reform bills, including one key measure that would expand the number of medical dispensaries that can operate in the state and another to prevent police from searching people’s homes over the smell of cannabis.
Nearly six in ten Louisiana voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a poll from the University of New Orleans that was released last year.
While legalization has yet to be enacted in the Pelican State, Edwards did sign a bill in 2021 to decriminalize possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis by making it punishable by a $100 fine without jail time.
Edwards also signed a bill in 2021 to allow patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally to smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.
The governor also previously said that he does think that Louisiana will inevitably legalize cannabis for adult use at some point, but he doesn’t believe it will happen before his term expires in 2024. (Full Story)