The decision to allow Louisiana citizens access to medical marijuana has been a controversial one. On June 30, 2015, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law HB 149, which allowed medical marijuana to be dispensed across the state, though the infrastructure to dispense pot wasn’t in place yet. On the same day, he signed SB 143, which made the punishments for being caught with marijuana much less strict than they used to be. Still, pot smokers could be given a fine of $300 and sent to jail for 15 days for a first offense.
The next year, Gov. John Bel Edwards surprisingly expanded Jindal’s medical marijuana bill, making it more accessible to citizens. He extolled his decision: “This is one of those bills that I believe will have a positive impact on people who need it the most.” Gov. Edwards passed the bill for people suffering from 10 serious diseases including cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s Disease, muscular dystrophy, and AIDS. He made it clear that he didn’t want to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Some lawmakers are currently advocating to have more medical conditions added to the list of those that quality for marijuana treatment.
Though recreational marijuana smokers may have to wait a long time to have total legalization, it seems as though the current proceedings are a step towards a pot-friendly Louisiana.
More than half of adults in America; over 128 million have experimented with marijuana, despite it being an illegal drug under federal law. Today nearly 600,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession annually; more than one person per minute. Public support for legalizing marijuana has gone from 12% in 1969 to 66% today. Starting with Colorado and Washington in 2012, recreational marijuana has been legalized in ten states and DC.
Proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana say it will add billions to the economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, free up scarce police resources, and stop the huge racial disparities in marijuana enforcement. They contend that regulating marijuana will lower street crime, disrupt the drug cartels, and make marijuana use safer through required testing, labeling, and child-proof packaging. They say marijuana is a relatively harmless herb and that adults should have a right to use it if they want too.
Opponents of legalizing recreational marijuana say it will increase teen use and lead to more medical emergencies including traffic deaths from driving while high. They contend that revenue from legalization falls far short of the costs in increased hospital visits, addiction treatment, environmental damage, crime, workplace accidents, and lost productivity. They say that marijuana use harms the user physically and mentally, and that its use should be strongly discouraged, not legalized.