Louisiana stoners collectively sighed in relief on Tuesday, as a legislative bill by Rep. Richard Nelson (R) designed to legalize adult-use marijuana passed the final committee before being pushed to a hearing in the state’s House of Representatives.
Dubbed House Bill 524, the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee voted to advance the bill, with 7 votes in favor and 5 votes against. Among the voters in favor included three of the committee’s four Democrats, an independent, and three Republicans. The final Democrat of the committee did not cast a vote in favor or against the bill. The one abstaining vote in the committee came from Marcus Anthony Bryant, who has promised to support the bill in the House, and has begun working with industry stakeholders for a study resolution in case Nelson’s fails to receive enough votes.
Heavy Opposition to Cannabis Legalization
While the impending debates over House Bill 524 have not yet begun, optimism for the passing of such legislation remains low.
The Bill must pass through both chambers of Louisiana’s Congress, which are controlled by Republicans. After that, it requires the governor’s signature, which seems unlikely; Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has publicly voiced his opposition to cannabis legalization.
Only time will tell what will happen to House Bill 524.
Changing Cannabis Perceptions in Louisiana
However, the hearing itself is a demonstration of changing attitudes in the state. Several opinion polls conducted in the past few years have shown that a majority of voters in Louisiana support cannabis legalization.
Nelson said to fellow Rep. Bryan Fontenot (R), who voted against the bill, “Marijuana is more popular than Donald Trump in Louisiana.”
Many of the representatives voting in favor of House Bill 524 represent districts with overwhelming support for cannabis legalization. Rep. Scott McKnight (R), who voted in favor of the bill, did so while conflicted between his support for law enforcement and opinion polls from his district demonstrating that 72% of Baton Rouge’s residents support marijuana legalization.
“Whether it happens this time … At least we’re stepping closer to get this done,” said McKnight.
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