Louisiana Looking at Marijuana Reform

In 1991, Louisiana somewhat legalized medical marijuana for patients suffering from glaucoma or spastic quadriplegia, as well as symptoms related to chemotherapy. However, the law was vague and lists no protections for patients or physicians or mechanisms for legal acquisition.

To help his state reform its marijuana laws, Democratic state Rep. Dalton Honoré has introduced two bills to the state legislature. House Bill 6 would set up protections and regulations for the cultivation, distribution and consumption of medical marijuana.

“It’s the law already in the state of Louisiana,” Honoré told The Town Talk. “Medical marijuana was passed in 1991. But they never figured out a mechanism to get it to the people. There’s no way to secure it. That’s been a problem for 24 years.”

Indeed, it is a little strange to have such a law on the books and do nothing about it. One would think that the legislature would have a vested interest in at least providing a strict framework, if only to keep that law from being abused.

HB 117, Honoré’s other bill, would put a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana on Louisiana’s 2016 ballot. “We either vote for it, to give the people option to vote for it or against it. Up or down … . This is not a vote for marijuana; it’s the option to let the people vote for it,” Honoré told The Daily Chronic.

Unfortunately for Honoré, letting the people decide is the last thing his prohibitionist colleagues want. Although a recent poll by LSU found that 53 percent of Louisiana residents support full legalization, there is still fierce opposition in the legislature.

“I’m against [legalization] wholeheartedly,” Sen. Bob Kostelka told the Daily World. “It’s a gateway drug … . It’s been proven that people who use marijuana cannot do without it. Look even at Colorado. They’ve had an increase in DUIs and more accidents,” Kostelka added.

In truth, Kostelka is mistaken. Although, like everything, it is possible to become addicted, marijuana is not physically addictive like cocaine, tobacco, or even caffeine. Furthermore, Colorado has actually seen a decline in fatal traffic collisions since it legalized marijuana. Sadly, facts and statistics have no place in the mind a politician with an agenda.

It is always difficult to anticipate what the legislature will or will not do; sometimes a bill that looks like a slam dunk still fails. However, it would come as no surprise if the Louisiana legislature lets both bills die without ever coming to a vote.

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