Colorado pot lines have Louisiana lawmakers thinking - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Colorado pot lines have Louisiana lawmakers thinking

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NEW ORLEANS - Starting today, people can legally buy marijuana in Colorado, and one Louisiana lawmaker believes it could lead to changes here.

First, supporters will try to lighten penalties.  But more dramatic changes appear a long way off.

It's New year, and a new day in Colorado.

Recreational marijuana is now being sold at dozens of stores and long lines, have been the rule and Louisiana lawmakers are watching.

"The drug war doesn't work,we have to be smarter," said LA. State representative Austin Badon (D-New Orleans).

While pot is now legal in Colorado, current Louisiana law calls for a six month sentence, for a first time possession charge, and some multiple offenders can get up to life in prison.

"That's ridiculous that's not like murder, marijuana never hurt anybody," said New Orleanian Sylvia Stern.

Now, Representative Austin Badon is again proposing a new law to minimize penalties for multiple pot offenders.

"Right now for a second offense, you can get a max of five years, my bill takes it two years," said Badon.

Badon came close to passing a similar law last session. It cleared the house, but failed in the Senate.

Badon said, "We would have gotten the votes, we ran out of time."

Legal experts say even though first offenses provide for up to six months in jail, very few offenders wind up in Orleans parish prison, which could be a sign that attitudes against marijuana are softening here.

"We've observed that in so many issues over time, as people got more exposed, there seems more acceptance to it," said Xavier Political Analyst, Silas Lee, PhD.

And though Lee acknowledges Louisiana is more conservative than other states, Lee wouldn't rule out the possibility of softening the rules or even legalizing pot in Louisiana.

"In order for it to happen you have to have organization," Lee said.

Citizens have mixed views. "It's everywhere any way," said Stern," Legalizing is a lot smarter than having it sold undercover, and kids getting in trouble."

But tourist Diane Raffa said, "I hope it's not, I can't take the dumbing down of America, it's outrageous."

For now Austin Badon is against legalization of marijuana, but he does support new jail limits. "What we're doing in Louisiana right now, we're taking people away from families we're making them lose their jobs, taking them out of educational facilities," said Badon.

And he believes the long lines in Colorado, could lead to a softening of laws here, that many believe are too harsh.

Representative Badon's bill would prohibit sentences of longer than eight years for any multiple offender.

He'll push his plan when state lawmakers meet in a couple months.

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