NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) A crowd gathered outside of the Maple Leaf Bar at 4:20 in the afternoon on Thursday, April 20, or just 4/20 as the bar promoted the event. The show included live music, but it was also a fundraiser to help get recreational marijuana passed in Louisiana. The a representative from the group Marijuana Policy Project was also there and spoke with WGNO News.
“We’ve seen in 21 states that the sky has not fallen in any of these states,” Keven Caldwell said, referring to the other states that have already passed laws allowing for recreational marijuana use.
The Louisiana legislature is looking at multiple bills on the topic. Three of them were filed by New Orleans East Democrat Candace Newell. One bill calls for decriminalization of recreational use while another regulates it and a third taxes it.
“We’re criminalizing people in the state of Louisiana for a substance that people in other states have made an economic enterprise,” Newell told WGNO during a Zoom interview from her office at the Capitol.
It’s Newell’s third attempt to get a recreational use bill to the governor’s desk. But she’s not the only lawmaker who has tried. And while the effort is generally considered to be a Democrat issue, a recreational use bill by a Republican two years ago also failed.
Opponents have a list of reasons why allowing for more marijuana use will include serious consequences like increased crime, a less motivated workforce and students. There are multiple studies that support both sides of the legalization arguement.
Newell says the biggest benefit to the state would be tax revenue, citing other states that collect hundreds of millions of dollar a year.
“We would not be fighting over teacher pay raises. We would not be fighting over the state of our educational system as a whole.”
Previously, Newell withdrew a similar bill due to lack of support. She says plenty of lawmakers are on board with the effort but aren’t not sure their constituents agree, so they fear their vote could cost them re-elction.
“We can vote for one another’s bills, but we can’t vote for one another,” she said.
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