BATON ROUGE, La. (WGNO) – The Louisiana State Bar Association makes a stand to relax marijuana sentencing laws.
“Down here, they act like you committed murder if you put a weed in your mouth,” say Morris while smoking a spliff in the Marigny.
The state level team of lawyers supports efforts to keep pot smokers out of jail.
“They are endorsing the idea of lessening the sentences for marijuana possession,” says state Senator. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans.
The Louisiana District Attorneys Association and the State Sheriffs’ Association remain advocates for marijuana laws on the books now.
However, Morrell hopes the Bar Association’s support will bolster momentum for his marijuana bill, which never made it out of a Senate Committee last session, “I intend to bring this bill back next year.”
Back in the Marigny, Morris recalls his arrest for possession of marijuana, “Straight to jail. Non-stop. I can tell you that much, it wasn’t right. Got thrown in the same holding next to violent offenders. I don’t think nobody should be going to jail for marijuana.”
Three marijuana retail shops are expected to debut selling legally in Washington State Tuesday July 8th.
“Colorado and everywhere else you go and buy weed with a credit card,” says Morris.
“Why is Louisiana treating second and third offense criminal as felonies?” questions Morrell, who argues prosecution and incarceration money paid for by tax payers could better be used elsewhere.
“Had my bill passed this year turning marijuana into a misdemeanor, it would have saved the state of Louisiana twenty million dollars a year.”
Meantime WGNO crosses paths with well-known New Orleans artist Conan, propped on his the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen Streets smoking out of a pipe, “Yes I am indulging in illegal activities.”
As Conan takes a puff, a mounted NOPD patrol rides past, “I like sharing a buzz with somebody. Hey,” calling to his friend Sonny. “You want to take a hit off this man?”
“Damn right,” says Sonny, a musician, arrested once in Florida for possession. “I got busted. They found a pound stuffed in the bottom of my golf clubs.”
Conan doesn’t flinch when an NOPD patrol car rolls past.
“If a cop were watching, he could throw you in jail,” I say to Conan.
“Well, I’ve already been kicked out of jail.”
“Crime has fallen in-half in Denver,” says Morrell. “Violent crime has plummeted,”
He says Louisiana should wait and allow other states to work out kinks in marijuana laws first, “And these places turn out to be meccas of free money and low crime, we should totally revisit that. But right now it hasn’t been long enough to have enough data to show one way or the other.”