Penalties for simple possession of marijuana would be reduced under legislation that eked out of the Louisiana House on Wednesday.

The House voted 53-36 for the measure — the bare majority in the 105-member House needed for passage.

The changes are projected to yield a $605,360 savings in the upcoming budget year and increasing amounts in subsequent years because of the reduce prison time, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.

“It only deals with simple possession. It does not change the sentence for the pusher or dealer,” Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, said.

“These are non-violent offenders,” he said.

House Bill 149 would change sentencing guidelines for second and subsequent convictions of simple marijuana possession. A second offense would be reduced from five years to two years in prison. A third conviction would go from a maximum of 20 years to a maximum of five. A fourth conviction would bring a maximum of eight years in prison.

Badon said taxpayers are footing the bill to the tune of $20,000 annually per offender.

The bill now heads to the Louisiana Senate for debate.

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