LAFAYETTE, La. — As Louisiana's legislative session starts up Monday, one of the bills being presented is trying to decriminalize marijuana.
Louisiana Rep. Candace N. Newell, (D-New Orleans), who authored the bill, says seeing other parts of the country move ahead in legalizing the drug inspired her to present it.
Additionally, seeing the effect on youth of color further pushed her to advocate for this.
The legalization wouldn’t symbolize a free for all. People still would not be allowed to grow the plants in their home, or sell it on corners, she mentioned.
Planters, manufacturers, and retailers would have to be licensed. Farmers, specifically, would have to be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture.
She says marijuana sales and possession have clouded the record of many people who are now trying to get a job.
“And now they cannot get a job because they have a record and that box that they have to check on the application sometimes knocks them out of being even considered for a job,” said Newell.
Although expungement is not a part of this bill, she is hopeful that the decriminalization of the plant would mark the path towards sealing and clearing criminal records for possession or distribution.
Eventually, she hopes the system could weed out the cases from the smallest crimes, towards the higher, bigger ones.
She says the marijuana industry is “COVID-proof.” Newell believes that other industries like oil and gas, and tourism were impacted by the pandemic. Meanwhile, marijuana was not affected.
Plus, she says this could help every area in Acadiana.
In rural areas, marijuana could be planted and harvested, while industrial areas could benefit from processing and manufacturing. Finally, urban areas and cities would capitalize on revenue and marketing efforts from storefronts.
“Now it is getting support from both sides,” she said. “I believe people on both sides are seeing more than people should not be arrested for this, but they’re seeing we can make some money off of this.”
She says the taxes and revenue the state could make from legalizing and regulating the drug is a lot more than the money and fees the state is spending on arresting and prosecuting those who possess and distribute the drug.
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