A recent bill introduced into the Louisiana House of Representatives would decriminalize possession of marijuana as well as legalize the sale and use thereof.
House Bill 264, “the Case for Cannabis,” is a short, 22-page bill authored by State Representative Richard Nelson (R-89), who says that support for legalization has grown exponentially in the past few years.
“Sixty-eight percent of the people support something; I think it’s time the politicians get onboard,” Nelson said. “I represent the people, and I think the people want this.”
Passing this bill in the next election would allow Louisiana to build its own industry up while sale through state lines would still be illegal.
“I think everybody will admit that it’s going to be legalized on the state level eventually, and so the longer we wait with that, the younger our industry is going to be here in Louisiana," Nelson said.
According to Nelson, legalizing the sale of marijuana and allowing the state to regulate it would generate massive amounts of money for the state.
“[Rather than] having all this money being captured by the drug cartels and drug dealers, we can capture it through legitimate businesses, you know, have people in Louisiana feeding their families through growing, selling, processing marijuana,” Nelson said.
"I think there’s a significant opportunity cost if we delay it a couple years,” he continued. “Every year you delay it is $100 million to $200 million that we lose.”
Representative Mandie Landry (D-91) says that it’s time for Louisiana to stop wasting valuable resources on fighting something that isn’t dangerous.
“As we see over time, it’s not dangerous, it doesn’t cause drunk driving accidents, it doesn’t cause road rage. It’s a plant, it’s pretty simple, and it’s easy to regulate it,” Landry said.
For a consumer looking to buy recreational marijuana, the bill makes doing so pretty simple and straightforward.
“You gotta be 21; that’s basically it. You gotta be 21, you have to have a photo ID. You go in there, you show them your ID, and it’s just like buying alcohol,” Nelson said.
One thing the bill does not touch on is people who have already been jailed for marijuana possession. But, for Representative Landry, this is at least a huge step in the right direction.
“We need to stop arresting people for smoking a plant," Landry said. "I think we should decriminalize marijuana. I think we should legalize it. I think we should make some money off it."
“I think we need to go back and remove criminal convictions from everyone who sat in jail for many years because of this very poor policy making from the 80s,” she continued.
If passed in both chambers, the bill will be voted on by the public in the next general election in November 2022.