Marijuana Legalization Bill Passed in Louisiana House

Recreational marijuana legalization may be a possibility in Louisiana after the House committee passed a marijuana legalization bill with bipartisan support.

Louisiana's House Committee advanced House Bill 524 by Rep. Richard Nelson in a 7-5 vote yesterday, receiving votes from two Republicans and five Democrats, and will now make its way to the Senate.

Medical marijuana was first sold in Florida in 2019 after the then-Governor Bobby Jindal signed SB 143 in 2015 which created a framework for medicinal marijuana treatment and dispensaries.

While it's certainly progress that some Republicans in Louisiana helped to pass the recreational marijuana bill, the full House and Senate, as well as Governor John Bel Edwards would all need to support the bill for it to become law.

This sets up some large obstacles for recreational marijuana legalization in Louisiana as both the House and Senate have a Republican majority and Gov. Edwards has previously stated his opposition to recreational marijuana legalization.

While the Governor of Louisiana signed a bill into law last year that expanded the qualifying conditions to be prescribed medical marijuana in the state, he has stated that he doesn't wish to legalize recreational marijuana.

However, speaking on what he would do if the bill arrived on his desk, Gov. Edwards said:

"As I almost always do, I'll take a bill as it arrives on my desk and see what it contains," Edwards said. "I'm not going to speculate now on that. But I do have great interest in that bill and what it says especially if it does make it up to the fourth floor."

The bill was introduced by 34-year-old Republican Rep. Richard Nelson, who says he has never smoked marijuana but he believes that the War on Drugs has been a failure and hasn't prevented marijuana use.

He also cited the popularity of marijuana legalization as a motivating factor behind his introduction of H.B. 524, saying that "Marijuana is more popular than Donald Trump in Louisiana."

While it looks unlikely that Louisianan legislators will support the bill at the House and Senate levels, polling data does suggest that a majority of residents in the state do support marijuana legalization.

And, as we covered throughout the past fortnight, both Quinnipiac polling data, as well as Pew polling data show that the majority of Americans support cannabis legalization too.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.