(Rick Bowmer, Associated Press file)

Louisiana bill reducing penalties for pot possession narrowly advances

BATON ROUGE, La. — With the narrowest of votes, the Louisiana House approved lowering the maximum sentence for repeat marijuana possession from 20 years to eight years.

The bill by Rep. Austin Badon, a New Orleans Democrat, moved to the Senate with a 53-36 vote Wednesday. That was the minimum support needed to pass.

Law enforcement associations don’t oppose the bill, but Badon called it a tough vote because lawmakers could appear soft on crime in an election year.

The bill retains a six-month sentence for a first offense. But prison time for a second offense would drop from five to two years. A third conviction — which currently carries a 20-year maximum — would drop to a five-year maximum. A fourth conviction would have an 8-year sentence cap.

Online: House Bill 149