For the third consecutive year, Louisiana will have the opportunity to vote on a recreational marijuana legalization proposal to establish the state’s cannabis regulations and build a new industry. House Bill 17, one of the bills proposed by State Representative Candace Newell, would pave the way for marijuana to generate tax revenue and create new jobs.
The bill would permit the state to issue ten licenses for facilities to cultivate, process, and manufacture recreational marijuana and forty permits for retailers to sell the flower and related cannabis products. The permits would be distributed evenly across eight geographic regions in the state.
A Separate Measure To Decriminalize Possession And Distribution
Newell has filed a separate measure, House Bill 24, which would decriminalize possession and distribution of marijuana upon legislative enactment of a regulatory system and establishing a tax on recreational sales. She believes decriminalization should not wait for full legalization, which could take years, but should be done immediately.
Newell’s Two Bills: A Strategic Move
In order to give issues a fighting chance of being passed, Newell separated them into different bills with hopes of it being approved by the closed-minded opposition. She filed similar versions of House Bill 17 twice before but ran into opposition each time. She said people could be “closed-minded” about the issue because they don’t use marijuana and believe no one else should use it.
House Bill 17 could face opposition from the small number of cultivators, pharmacies, and doctors currently controlling the state’s medical marijuana market. However, Newell said she doesn’t think a recreational cannabis market will upend medical sales. She said that those who use the drug to treat a medical condition shouldn’t stop seeing their doctor just because an over-the-counter version would be available.
Tax Revenue And Economic Opportunities
With no tax on medical marijuana, Newell said a recreational market would be a vehicle to generate tax revenue for Louisiana. She believes that with the legalization of recreational marijuana, Louisiana citizens should have the opportunity to tparticipate in this economic opportunity.
Newell said, “When we see our state in another shortfall, we won’t have to tax our people. Tourism and oil are not recession-proof. Marijuana is.” Studies have found both legal and illegal drug markets to be primarily recession-proof.
Potential Challenges To Legalizing Recreational Marijuana In Louisiana
Although Rep. Twice before, Candace Newell has introduced comparable iterations of House Bill 17. She has faced opposition from those who control Louisiana’s medical marijuana market. The small number of cultivators, pharmacies, and doctors currently controlling the medical marijuana market may oppose the proposed legislation. There may also be closed-minded opposition to the legalization of marijuana from those who don’t use it and believe that no one else should use it. Newell said she doesn’t think a recreational cannabis market will upend medical sales and that people using medical marijuana to treat a medical condition shouldn’t stop seeing their doctor just because an over-the-counter version would be available.
Prospects For The Proposed Legislation
House Bill 17 and House Bill 24 will likely head first to the House Judiciary Committee after the 2023 regular session opens on April 10. As previously mentioned, Candace Newell has filed similar versions of House Bill 17 twice before, running into opposition each time. However, Newell believes that the proposed legislation could be passed, especially as more and more states legalize marijuana and the federal government leans towards legalization. Louisiana lawmakers waited years to legalize medicinal marijuana after other states did so, although it was among the first in the South. Some have blamed that delay for many of the current kinks in Louisiana’s market, such as high prices and difficulty accessing the drug or finding clinicians who embrace its treatment potential.
House Bill 17 will likely head first to the House Judiciary Committee after the 2023 regular session opens on April 10. Newell’s proposed bills will allow Louisiana to legalize recreational marijuana and incorporate its cultivation and sale into the state’s economy. It remains to be seen whether the bills will be successful this time, but the introduction of such bills is a step forward for Louisiana in the quest to legalize marijuana.
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