Bill easing marijuana penalties derailed

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A New Orleans lawmaker's proposal to soften penalties for marijuana possession has been at least temporarily derailed by opposition from Louisiana sheriffs.

Rep. Austin Badon, a Democrat, pulled his bill from consideration Thursday in the House Criminal Justice Committee after testimony by the head of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association.

Association executive director Michael Ranatza said sheriffs fear the bill could lead to decriminalization of marijuana.

Badon says he was caught off-guard by Ranatza's testimony.

Under the proposal, prison time and fines would be lessened for second, third and fourth offenses for marijuana possession.

The shelving of Badon's bill isn't expected to end debate on reducing penalties for marijuana possession in Louisiana; several other bills are awaiting consideration by legislators.

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