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Two-thirds of La. voters support legalizing marijuana; state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle eye legalization

Updated: Apr. 7, 2021 at 8:16 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - With more states legalizing marijuana this year, voters in Louisiana wonder if the state will yet again be late to the party.

As the green rush continues to boom across the United States, many in the Bayou State are anxious to cash in. A recent poll showed 67% of Louisiana voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis. That’s up from the 54% who favored it last year, which leaves lawmakers to face what they say is obvious.

“I think there’s a sense of inevitability of it too, that people figure this is coming and it’s probably better earlier than later if it’s coming,” said Louisiana Rep. Tanner Magee (R).

And it’s not just one party that’s leaning towards legalization. The poll done by JMC Enterprises showed that the majority of both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of giving legalization the green light. Right now in Louisiana, it’s legal to be prescribed cannabis but only in a concentrated form. Magee said his bill would expand those laws.

“Right now, the medical program can only sell tinctures, which is like an oil-based pill sort of deal, so this would allow for the smokable plant to be sold as well,” Magee explained.

But others at the Louisiana State Capitol say expanding the medical use is not enough.

“I don’t knock what my colleagues are doing; we’re all trying from a different angle but I want to go on and fully legalize it,” said Louisiana Representative Candace N. Newell (D).

But even some Republicans like Representative Richard Nelson from Mandeville are proposing bills that would do that as well.

And with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle looking to legalize marijuana in one form or another, that leaves them with a different kind of conversation to have during this year’s legislative session.

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Experts with the tax foundation say that legalization of the plant could generate millions of dollars, not to mention hundreds if not thousands of potential jobs. Most states that already have it have somewhere between a 10% to 25% tax rate on all their cannabis products. It’s projected that Louisiana would rake in $77 million at 15% and $128 million at 25%. But some are worried too high of a tax rate would not do much to weed out the black market.

The New Orleans City Council will also be sending its support to the legislature with several bipartisan bills, saying “this is our best shot.”

Session begins on April 12, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

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