The debate over marijuana has been raging for years. Some people think that pot is terrible and shouldn't be legal. Others think we should legalize, no questions asked. There are a lot of ins and outs on both sides. And here in the state of Louisiana, the heart of the bible belt, most folks don't expect pot to be legal any time soon. And, while that may be true, the state has taken its first step to decriminalizing by reducing the penalty for pot possession. Which is a HUGE step for a state like ours. 

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HB 149 is sitting on Gov. Jindal's desk just waiting to get signed. According to, here is what the new bill means to you:

• It carves out a new penalty section for possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana, making it punishable by maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and a $300 fine.

• It does not change penalties for first-offense possession of marijuana involving amounts between 14 grams and 2.5 pounds, keeping the penalty for the misdemeanor charge at six months in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense.

• Second offenses are a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

• Third offenses are a felony punishable by up to a $2,500 fine and two years in prison.

• Fourth and subsequent offenses are a felony punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and eight years in prison.

• The proposal also allows offenders one chance to apply to have their record expunged if they aren’t convicted of a marijuana violation within two years of the first offense.

Like I said, not a huge step. But considering where we live, progress is progress. And the argument has been made multiple times over the last couple of years to legalize and put pot dispensaries on Bourbon St.. Could we be the first state in the South with pot shops? Probably not, but hey we're getting there. Maybe.