By Paul Murphy | WWL-TV | May 19, 2021
NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana House has rejected a bill to tax the sale of pot.
The bill’s author, Rep. Richard Nelson, then tabled a separate measure that created the legal framework to sell and possess recreational marijuana.
The Mandeville republican said while his bills fell short, they changed the conversation in Baton Rouge.
“This was always going to be a longshot to do in one fell swoop, so I think we laid the groundwork that we needed for next year,” Nelson said. “I think next year we have a good shot.”
The 34-year-old admits to being an unlikely face of the push to make Louisiana the 18th state to legalize marijuana.
“I’m an Eagle Scout,” Nelson said. “I was valedictorian at Mandeville High. I’ve never used it. I never will even if I legalize it. I just think this is an issue the people of Louisiana want. I think it’s good policy.”
The Louisiana Sheriffs’ and District Attorneys Associations worked to kill the marijuana bills.
While the legalization effort is dead, the House did agree overwhelmingly to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
“I’m not in favor of either,” Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche said.
But if asked to choose, Goyeneche says legalization is preferable to decriminalization.
“The reason being that every decriminalization movement is only authorizing the possession of marijuana, not the distribution of it,” Goyeneche said. “Do it where it’s legalized and can be taxed by government, regulated by government.”
Goyeneche sees opinions shifting in Louisiana on the marijuana issue much like they did 30 years ago when the state legalized gambling.
“I think in some point in time it probably will become legal, not just in Louisiana, but everywhere,” Goyeneche said.
The decriminalization bill is awaiting debate in the state senate.
“The tide is changing and the attitudes are changing, even in the legislature,” Nelson said.
The Sheriffs’ Association has now committed to studying the marijuana legalization issue ahead of next year’s legislative session.