Louisiana is known for having some of the most cutthroat penalties against marijuana possession in the United States, but this bad reputation could become a legend of the past if lawmakers can miraculously convince legislative forces that legal weed is the right channel for which to satisfy the state’s budget woes.
Reports indicate that the Louisiana Legislature may be preparing to dive head first into a new proposal later this session aimed at dragging the state out of the trenches of prohibition to establish a fully legal cannabis trade.
Earlier this week, the appropriations committee put their stamp of approval on several bills intended to trim some of the fat from the underbelly of the state’s disastrous $850 million budget deficit, but lawmakers are concerned that a political tug-of-war between the Republican-dominated legislature and the Governor’s office over how to solve the state’s financial crisis will not result in any measurable reconciliation.
Although the specifics of the alleged bill have not been made public, KLFY News 10 claims sources have told them that a recreational marijuana proposal is on the horizon, which lawmakers hope to pass by convincing the House and Senate that freeing the leaf would be more profitable for the state than the current ban.
But, unfortunately, there just seems to be too much opposition stacked against such an effort to even consider that Louisiana, a state where habitual pot offenders are often sentenced to decades of hard labor, could be its way to becoming the first state in the South to allow weed to be bought, sold and grown amidst its chain gang mentality.
In addition to Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser saying he doesn’t believe “it sends the right message that we’re going to legalize [marijuana] because we have a budget problem,” he also told KLFY that Governor John Bel Edwards would likely lean on the recommendation of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association before ever considering legalization.
During one of last year’s gubernatorial debates, Edwards said that while he was in favor of the state legislatures decision to create a functional medical marijuana program, he did not support the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, throughout the years, Edwards has expressed a level of common sense toward drug-related issues, tendering his support for federal drug education and treatment programs, even those assisting offenders suffering from addiction issues from behind bars. But then again, he has also supported mandatory jail terms for people convicted of drug crimes, so it is difficult to say whether he has the guts to get behind a bill to legalize a recreational cannabis market in 2016 even if the Louisiana Sheriffs offer no interference.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Louisiana spends in the neighborhood of $47 million per year to enforce its laws against the cannabis plant. Considering that Colorado is generating in upwards of $135 million annually from marijuana taxes and fees, perhaps Louisiana lawmakers will give some serious consideration to a recreational pot proposal if one does, in fact, happen to surface in the coming months.
Illustration via bestofneworleans.com