Sep 5, 2013 11:21 PM by Erin Steuber
New polling in Louisiana suggests a change in attitudes when it comes to marijuana. The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, shows a growing support for taxed and regulated weed.
Take the issue of medicinal marijuana. Over half of voters in the state supporting cannabis for medical use, and here in Acadiana the numbers are the same: 63-percent in favor, 23-percent against and 14-percent without an opinion.
Last legislative session a bill was introduced that would lower the penalties for marijuana possession. But the session ended before any decisions were made. Now, the biggest hope of supporters is that the results of this poll will encourage the legislature to revisit the possibility.
Within the last week alone 11 arrests were made in Lafayette Parish for marijuana possession.
"Everybody knows somebody that's been in possession of marijuana," said the Executive Director of ACLU Marjorie Esman. "So the question is, do you want the people you know facing incarceration for something that's common place?"
Those supporting decriminalization of pot, say the penalties are too high. First time offenders face fines, jail time and even the possibility of life in prison without parole. One-hundred-seventy-seven prisoners in the state are currently serving life sentences for narcotics. It costs $34,135 a year to house an inmate in a Louisiana prison.
"In a budget like ours when we're continuing to struggle to fund healthcare, higher education and other important state functions, every dollar you spend in the criminal justice system is a dollar you don't spend somewhere else," said KATC Political Analyst Dr. Pearson Cross.
But just as the polls suggest not everyone in Louisiana is in support of changes to the law.
"I don't agree with it. I don't think they should legalize it. It's just going to cause more trouble," said Katherine Kirkpatrick.
"I feel like as adults you should be able to do what you want with your body and penalizing that is a waste of time and money," said Hunter Simmons.
The ACLU is pushing for reform, at the very least to lower penalties for marijuana possession in Louisiana.