BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/KTAL) – A new poll shows Louisiana voters are becoming more open to legalizing and taxing marijuana as is currently done with cigarettes and alcohol.
Medical marijuana has been available in Louisiana for a while now and access was recently expanded to include more residents just last year, but more than two-thirds of Louisiana voters say that is not enough. They want recreational cannabis legalized, too.
A new JMC Analytics poll for the Louisiana Association for Therapeutic Alternatives shows support for overall legalization has grown by 13% since the poll was conducted last year to 67% in this year’s survey. At the same time, the percentage of Louisianians who think using or possessing marijuana should be illegal has dropped by six points.
“Given that it’s only relatively recently that you’ve had a full-scale deployment of medicinal marijuana, I think that facilitates this change in attitude,” said pollster John Couvillon.
Couvillon also asked participants if they would be more likely to back a political candidate who wants to loosen Louisiana’s marijuana laws. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they would.
“I see this as breaking new ground that hasn’t been broken before.”
Under current state law, first-offense possession of fourteen grams or less of marijuana is punishable by a fine of not more than $300 and imprisonment in a parish jail for not more than fifteen days, or both.
Earlier this month, Shreveport became the third city in the state to adopt an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and limiting the penalty under city ordinance to a maximum fine of $50 and no jail time.
State lawmakers will have at least one marijuana bill to debate this spring. New Orleans Democrat Candace Newell wants to decriminalize its possession and sale. The state would still have to greenlight a sales tax and other regulations.
It’s already happened in more than a dozen other states, with New York joining the list on Wednesday after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act into law. The legislation was passed by the New York State Assembly and Senate on Tuesday.
Louisiana lawmakers start their annual legislative session April 12.