Image of Louisiana Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans
 
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday said he plans to sign legislation that would change the state's medical marijuana laws and soften penalties for marijuana offenders.
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There are three bills moving through the state legislature affecting Louisiana's marijuana laws. Two of them (SB 241) and (HB 149), which are nearly identical, would reduce the tough sentences judges are allowed to hand down for repeat marijuana offenses; reduce a second marijuana offense from felony to misdemeanor; and allow first-time convictions for simple possession to be erased after two years.
 
The bills also set up a simple possession charge for smaller amounts of marijuana and more serious charges that can be brought for larger amounts of marijuana that drug dealers and distributors typically possess.
 
The third bill sets up a framework for patients in need of medical marijuana treatment to be able to get the drug if a doctor prescribes it.
 
Technically, medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1971, but there's never been rules written to regulate growing, prescribing or dispensing it.
 
The bill, introduced by Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, includes those rules but Jindal in the past had said he wanted "to reserve the right" to examine the bill in more detail.
 
"If it got to our desk we'd sign it," Jindal said during a Thursday press briefing. "Our view on medical marijuana was, it had to be supervised and had to be a legitimate medical purpose and his bill meets that criteria."
 
On the nearly identical bills introduced by state Sen. J.P. Morrell and Rep. Austin Badon, both Democrats from New Orleans, Jindal said he is similarly supportive of the legislation.
 
"We are fine with the idea of providing rehabilitation and treatment for non-violent drug offenders, and I think this bill does that," Jindal said. "I think that's good for those offenders and it's good for taxpayers. That's another bill that if it got to our desk we'd sign that as well."
 
Fiscal analysts have said that Morrell's bill could save taxpayers as much as $16 million over five years.
 
All three bills have made significant progress passing both committee and at least one of the two chambers of the State Capitol. Badon's bill has passed the full House; Morrell's bill has passed the full Senate; and Mills' bill has passed the full Senate. 
 
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