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Louisiana House to debate whether to legalize marijuana use

FILE - This Aug. 22, 2019, file photo shows medical marijuana plants during a media tour of the...
FILE - This Aug. 22, 2019, file photo shows medical marijuana plants during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Ravena, N.Y. New Yorkers can now possess and use up to 3 ounces of cannabis under a legalization bill signed Wednesday, March 31, 2021, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, while sales of recreational-use marijuana won't become legal for an estimated 18 months until the state draws up regulations. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)(Hans Pennink | AP)
Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 2:40 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana House will debate whether to decriminalize recreational marijuana use by adults, as state opinions about cannabis appear to be shifting and the idea is gaining bipartisan backing.

Lawmakers on the House criminal justice committee voted 7-5 Tuesday to send the proposal by Republican Richard Nelson of Mandeville to the House floor for debate. Two other Republicans joined Nelson and Democrats to support the measure, helping it get out of committee.

The bill would allow people 21 years and older in Louisiana to buy and have marijuana for personal use and would set up the legal framework for growing and selling cannabis products outside of the state’s current medical marijuana program.

Supporters of the measure pointed to statewide polls that increasingly show support for legalization of recreational marijuana in Louisiana.

“I think that now it’s time to reevaluate where we are,” Nelson said.

Opponents included organizations representing sheriffs and district attorneys. They argued legalization would increase organized crime and teen suicide, even as they acknowledged that opinions on marijuana are changing.

“I would ask that you tap your brakes and study this matter,” said Michael Ranatza, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has repeatedly said he opposes legalizing recreational marijuana in Louisiana.

Sixteen states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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