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State board approves resolution drafted by St. Tammany DA opposing the legalization of recreational weed

“The state of Louisiana needs to be very cognizant to realize what those costs are before we take the step of legalizing marijuana,” said District Attorney Warren Montgomery.
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 5:26 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The governor’s Drug Policy Board recently approved a resolution opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana, drafted by the St. Tammany and Washington Parish district attorney. Marijuana supporters said the resolution isn’t surprising, and isn’t supported by reality.

The resolution calls on Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to oppose any legislation moving Louisiana toward legalizing weed for recreational use.

“The state of Louisiana needs to be very cognizant to realize what those costs are before we take the step of legalizing marijuana,” said District Attorney Warren Montgomery. “The resolution cites a number of studies, many of these studies that have been produced and that we didn’t have as recently as five years ago.”

Montgomery said the legalization of recreational marijuana in other states years ago allowed time for studies to be conducted that have shown the negative effects of legalizing marijuana.

“It’ll have various negative impacts on education, on mental health, on crime, and other aspects, highway safety,” he said.

But opponents, or rather supporters of recreational marijuana, contest that those vocally opposing its legalization cherry-pick studies to support their point.

“You know there’s lies, damn lies, and statistics,” said Mandeville State Representative Richard Nelson, a Republican who last year filed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana that didn’t progress.

“I mean that’s what they do. If you have a position, they pick only the studies from 2014 that support their position, which I understand,” Nelson said. “At the same time, I can pick a million studies that do [support legalization], and I think the most convincing studies of all these states that have legalized it is none of them have gone back.”

As of Friday, no bills addressing marijuana have been pre-filed ahead of this year’s legislative session beginning in March.

The Committee of Administration on Criminal Justice will be studying marijuana policy this session, and what the impacts of its legalization would be.

Already, patients in Louisiana can get a prescription for medical marijuana. Earlier this month, it became legal for dispensaries to sell the flower form of marijuana.

“The demand is still really, really high, but we’re able to get the people in and out in a pretty reasonable time,” said Ruston Henry, owner and pharmacist at H&W Pharmacy.

Meanwhile, advocates said this session they expect bills to be filed increasing the cap on pharmacies and growers in the state.

“The fact is that the patients of Louisiana could be better served by having more growers, more pharmacies,” said Kevin Caldwell, southeast legislative manager for Marijuana Policy Project. “We would like to see more of a structure with not nearly as many caps, or uncapped if possible the number of growers, just to create competition which hopefully would lower some of the prices of flower for the patients of the state.”

Caldwell said his group is studying other states in the South, like Arkansas, which has eight growers but around one million fewer residents.

Louisiana has two growers, and nine pharmacies licensed in the state.

“And the prices in Arkansas are significantly cheaper than what we’re seeing currently in the Louisiana program,” Caldwell said.

Henry said he’s against what he calls putting the cart before the horse, that the state should continue with its program as is. If, down the road, demand increases, then caps can increase.

“Let’s settle down to see how they meet demand right now,” he said.

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