Tuesday April, 27th, the Louisiana House Committee approved a bill that would decriminalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use, despite heavy opposition from sheriffs and prosecutors.

The house bill (House Bill 524) was authored by State Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville. And the bill advanced from the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice on a 7-5 vote.

According to statistics presented by Pollster John Couvillion, nearly two-thirds of Louisianans polled support the legalization of cannabis on a recreational level. However, that doesn't mean it will pass the full House where conservatives hold the majority of the seats. Even our Governor is opposed to legalization on a recreational level, as he has law enforcement in his family.

The bill is facing opposition from others as well. St. Tammany and Washington Parish DA, Warren Montgomery was quoted as saying:

"Homelessness goes up, crime goes up, including violent crime, and mental illness, substance abuse goes up. That is what is gonna happen if you vote to legalize marijuana in the state of Louisiana."

Rep. Richard Nelson who wrote the bill, along with other proponents noted that for every statistic against legalization, there is a study that shows the horrible damage caused by continued criminalization. Nelson was quoted as saying:

"There's a proverb that says no matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn back, and I think that's pretty applicable to how Louisiana's marijuana policy is now."

So far 18 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational marijuana, showing a growing demand to do away with the outdated marijuana prohibition laws. Even locally in Shreveport we have set up less-harsh penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis. We will have to wait and see how this plays in the full house, but this is a for sure sign that things are loosening in the state of Louisiana.

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