A bill to decriminalize marijuana in Louisiana was short-lived, swiftly dying in committee Tuesday before ever reaching the House floor for debate this legislative session.
Democratic state Rep. Candace Newell briefly argued that her bill to decriminalize the possession and distribution of marijuana would provide opportunity for economic gains in the Deep South state. The legislation would have been contingent upon the Legislature “providing for a statutory regulatory system for the legal sale and distribution of marijuana” and establishing a sales tax.
“We should not still be criminalizing people when in other states their economy is flourishing,” Newell said. To date, 22 states have passed laws legalizing recreational use of marijuana by adults.
However, the House Criminal Justice Committee voted 9-4 along party lines to involuntarily defer the bill — effectively killing the legislation. None of the nine GOP lawmakers provided an explanation during the meeting on why they voted against the bill. Newell called the action by the committee “disrespectful,” saying that typically a lawmaker is given the “courtesy” of voluntarily deferring their own bill.
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Marijuana plants grow at GB Sciences Louisiana on Aug. 6, 2019, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
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“I was not naive enough to think that the bill would make it out of (committee) … but I was expecting a little bit more of an educated conversation to happen,” Newell told The Associated Press.
When asked if marijuana is likely to be legalized for recreational use in Louisiana anytime soon, Newell responded, “Hopefully in my lifetime.”
Efforts to legalize marijuana in Louisiana have faced an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. In 2021 lawmakers rejected similar bills by Newell and Republican state Rep. Richard Nelson, who’s running for governor in 2023.
Medical cannabis is legal in Louisiana. Additionally, in 2021 Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana statewide. Under the law, possession of less than 14 grams of cannabis is punishable by a $100 fine.