LOUISIANA - A bill to decriminalize the possessions of small amounts of marijuana for personal use is gaining steam in the Louisiana legislature. House bill 652 by Shreveport representative Cedric Glover advanced in its first senate hearing Tuesday, moving it one step closer to final passage.
News 15 spoke with those in the community to get their thoughts.
"I think that law enforcement's efforts are better spent dealing with property crime, violent crime, really anything but what I think amounts to thought crime," said Jacob White, who supports decriminalization.
Supporters of legalization and decriminalization argue that treating marijuana as a health concern and not a criminal one, is a more successful model for keeping the community safe. Jarad Martin believes this bill would do more good than harm.
"I feel like that's a good deed because it's a lot of people that have been criminalized for some petty things that shouldn't have gone to that extent, you know," Martin said.
In 2018, there were 1.8 million drug arrests in the United States, 86 percent of those arrests were for possession only. Like many in the community, Connor Champagne knows someone whose life was affected for marijuana possession.
"He ended up actually doing jail time at 17 years old for having about one gram is what I recall and that felony's followed him for the rest of his life," Said Champagne.
Champagne says it's now decades later and the man just recently got the charge removed from his record. "He's now in his late forties and he's just now able to vote again and use his constitutional rights again just because of one little gram of a plant that was in his pocket when he was 17 years old."
White says decriminalization could lead more people to support full legalization at some point, adding that Louisiana is missing out on potential revenue benefits.
"I think this could be a step in demystifying cannabis use and as we've seen in a lot of states with pilot programs this is a great source of government revenue and I think Louisiana is missing out," he said.
The decriminalization bill will head to the senate next. Should it pass, it would then be sent the governor for final approval.