Louisiana Lawmaker Wants Local Elections To Decide Marijuana Laws

Could recreational marijuana rest in the hands of local Louisiana governments?
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A bill filed in the Louisiana legislature would empower local governments in the state to hold elections on marijuana laws.

The legislation, filed by Democratic state Rep. Cedric Glover, would “authorize local governing authorities of the state to call an election for the purpose of authorizing the sale, possession, distribution, and use of marijuana.” 

Should Glover’s bill gain approval, it would then be put before a state-wide vote on November’s ballot under the question: “Do you support an amendment to provide that a local governing authority may call an election to authorize the sale, possession, distribution, and use of marijuana within its jurisdiction?” 

Whether or not Glover’s proposal gains support from his colleagues in the legislature, there are signs that Louisiana voters may be ready to embrace legalization. A poll from Louisiana State University last year found that 55 percent of residents in the state favored allowing adults to possess small amounts of pot, while 42 percent said they were opposed. 

Marijuana’s Journey In Louisiana

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program finally opened for business last year, with dispensaries opening after years of delays. 

The framework for the state’s program was first established in 2015, when then-Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill legalizing medical cannabis into law. But the law was beset by regulatory disagreements, leaving patients without access to cannabis. The law allows the treatment for patients with a wide range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In August, Louisiana agriculture and forestry commissioner Mike Strain announced that the agency had completed the final round of testing on cannabis that was produced by Louisiana State University and a contractor, GB Sciences, paving the way for the first crop of medical marijuana to hit shelves at dispensaries. 

But three months later, patients experienced sticker shock. Kathryn Thomas, CEO of The Healing Clinics, told the Associated Press that one-third of patients couldn’t afford the treatment.

“They can’t afford ongoing treatment,” Thomas said. “It’s becoming the program for the elite.”

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