Lawmakers are talking about pot, the pros and cons, and whether our state’s current laws are too tough. In fact, it was the topic of a meeting in Baton Rouge earlier in the day. WGNO News Anchor Vanessa Bolano has the new developments, and reaction from both sides of the debate.
It’s the modern day great debate: whether to legalize marijuana or not. Here in Louisiana lawmakers spent hours talking pot, penalties, and possibilities.
Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, says, “We discussed three things. One is the total legalization of marijuana, also we discussed the legalization of medicinal marijuana, and we also discussed the bill that I have that would reduce criminal penalties for simple possession of marijuana.”
Rep. Badon says most are in favor of some type of reform, but with conservative Governor Bobby Jindal at the helm he doesn’t think Louisiana will legalize pot anytime soon. Badon’s focus now is on decriminalizing.
“Last year it was passed in the House that we would reduce the criminal penalties, and we were a few votes short in the Senate. I think if we work a little harder on some committee members in the Senate side we can get those votes to reduce criminal penalties.”
NOPD Police Chief Ronal Serpas says whatever lawmakers decide it’ll be up to law enforcement officers to enforce the changes.
“Marijuana, alcohol, any kind of synthetic drugs, they affect the way people drive and that’s one of the things we’re most concerned about is impaired driving.”
When talking about flat out legalizing pot residents have mixed reviews.
David Sebring of Covington says, “It’s one of those things that obviously people are going to do either way, legalize it or not legalize it.”
New Orleans resident Wendy Westbrook says, “What they teach in Alcoholics Anonymous is that marijuana is kind of the gateway drug that kind of brings in all the rest.”
“You know the war on drugs has not worked, so I think if you legalize it you’ll get a lot of folks out of jail that probably shouldn’t be in jail,” says Mandeville resident Richard Miller.
Joe Eustis of Metairie believes, “We have enough alcoholics on the road. We don’t need any pot heads on the road killing people, driving our insurance rates up.”
Louisiana lawmakers will be voting on some kind of reform this upcoming legislative session.
Executive Director of the ACLU Majorie Esman says, “The ACLU supports legalization, but believes it’s premature in Louisiana. We have been advocating for reduced penalties. The government should not be in the business of telling adults what they should ingest.”