Marijuana Debate Is On Fire in Louisiana
Louisiana lawmakers will duke it out later this spring in an attempt to reduce the penalties associated with marijuana offenses. However, there is no misconception; the state has a long way to go before it embraces the idea of legalized marijuana.
In fact, many that oppose marijuana reform say legislation aimed at legalizing the drug on a recreational level will burn out before it sees the light of day.
“It scares me to death that anyone would even consider any bill that would legitimize an illegal drug,” state Senator Bob Kostelka told The Town Talk. “Medical marijuana is a ruse, and nobody goes to jail on a first-offense possession. “ Its a slippery slope. All of those bills that some people might find harmless are just steps toward the full legalization of the drug,” he said.
However, while some of the state’s lawmakers join Kostelka in his disapproval for recreational marijuana, a few believe that discounting it for medicinal purposes may be a little harsh. “We need to study all of the ramifications, but I’m certainly open to marijuana for medicinal purposes,” said state Representative Patrick Jefferson. “I don’t think the Legislature is as rigid as it was at one time on the issue.”
State Representative Jay Morris argues that lessening criminal penalties for marijuana possession is a big enough step for Louisiana. “But I’m against anything that might make it more accessible to the public, including medical marijuana,” he said.
Yet, Governor Bobby Jindal announced last week that he supports medical marijuana, indicating that the administration may be open to reviewing proposals for limited medical use. “When it comes to medical marijuana, if there is a legitimate medical need, we'd certainly be open to making it available under very strict supervision for patients that would benefit from that.”
Louisiana continues to enforce some of the most severe penalties for marijuana offenses in the nation. Under the current law, anyone caught with possession of under 60 pounds is subject to penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for a third offense.