Government in Louisiana never ceases to surprise, and the “law enforcement” lobby rarely fails to live up to its reputation for excess and overkill. Even when sensible reform measures are taken, we can always count on the DAs and their legislative allies to tighten any screws they can. Thus we’re now treated to another colorful irony of Bayou State lawmaking.

Senate Bill 241 by Sen. J. P. Morrell, a commendable effort to lessen harsh potential penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses, which is being discussed as a beneficial move toward greater tolerance and cost-effective prioritization in law enforcement, has been inseminated by amendments that actually severely increase penalties for some marijuana possession offenses.

Though the main trend in enlightened thinking about criminal justice these days is to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing and allow more lenient options for nonviolent offenders, the ayatollahs in the Legislature have inserted into Sen. Morrell’s bill a provision to change the possible sentence for some acts of marijuana possession from a six-month and/or $500 fine maximum sentence to a two-year mandatory minimum sentence with a 10-year maximum, plus a mandatory fine of $10,000 to $30,000. This hair-raising increase only applies to persons having possession of between two and one-half and 60 pounds of the controversial plant. So if SB241 becomes Louisiana law, citizens should be forewarned that too much of a good thing may set them back even more than before.

Onward through the fog!

Michael S. Wolf

lawyer

Baton Rouge