Recreational marijuana could be legalized in Louisiana soon. State Rep. Candace Newell introduced multiple bills that would legalize adult cannabis use and introduce the cannabis industry to the state.
Medical cannabis sales officially began in Louisiana in August 2019 after rounds of testing were conducted at LSU. Since then, 12 states legalized recreational marijuana use. Recreational use is legal in 21 states and Washington D.C.
Introduced by Newell, House Bill 709 would allow the Department of Agriculture to manage and distribute licenses and permits for retail dispensaries.
House Bill 243, also introduced by Newell, would remove penalties for marijuana possession and distribution if prior legislation (HB- 709), is approved.
A main objective of the two bills is to bring more jobs to Louisiana amid rising unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in Louisiana is up 10.2% since December 2022, according to the Louisiana Workforce Commission. If the bills are passed, Louisiana could build a new tax structure around marijuana. This would alleviate dependence on deep-rooted industries such as oil and gas.
State Rep. Larry Selders says Baton Rouge could see marijuana legalization soon.
"I think it will be a good industry," Selders said. "I think Baton Rouge has set the tone. I think the industry will thrive and take the criminal element of marijuana out of the picture. It will create jobs, and I think it would be good."
Selders also believes marijuana legalization would help create a safer culture for students at LSU, Southern and BRCC.
"I think that it will keep folks from using the black market," he said. "It will create a safe environment. If the students are going to use it, I'd rather them use something that has been tested, have something that's safe to use and be able to go somewhere safe to buy it instead of the black market."