Seven in 10 Louisianans support legalizing recreational marijuana possession for adults—and nine in 10 back medical cannabis legalization—according to a new survey released as lawmakers work to enact expungements legislation.
The poll from Louisiana State University (LSU) revealed a “substantial increase over the past decade in support for legalizing marijuana for recreational use,” with 70 percent of respondents saying that they favor ending prohibition for adults who possess “small amounts” of cannabis.
When the poll was administered 10 years ago in 2013, only 42 percent of Louisiana residents said they supported the reform.
“Support for legal possession of marijuana for medical purposes remains high at 90 percent,” the survey, which involved interviews with 500 Louisiana adults from March 22 to April 4, also found. The margin of error for the poll was +/-5.8 percentage points.
— Reilly Center (@ReillyCenter) June 1, 2023
Despite these findings, adult-use legalization continues to stall in the Louisiana legislature.
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) did sign a cannabis decriminalization bill into law in 2021—making it so possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana is punishable by a $100 fine—but broader reform hasn’t made it across the finish line.
That said, the governor previously said that he does think that Louisiana will inevitably legalize cannabis for adult use at some point. It’s just that he doesn’t believe it will happen before his term expires next year.
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“We have continued to see support rise among the voters of Louisiana when it comes to reforming cannabis policy in the past decade,” Kevin Caldwell, a legislative manager at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. “There has been a lag with getting legislators on board to implement these policies legislatively.”
“We continue to see growing bipartisan support for changes to the state’s outdated cannabis policy,” he said. “It is time to bring a $1 billion dollar a year illicit market out of the shadows and into a taxed and regulated market.”
This session, lawmakers recently advanced a bill through a House committee that would ensure that people remain eligible for unemployment benefits if they’re registered medical cannabis patients.
And a House-passed measure to streamline expungements for people with first-time marijuana possession convictions is heading to its final vote in the Senate before potentially being transmitted to Edwards.
The proposal would make it so people who are convicted of possessing up to 14 grams of cannabis as a first offense could petition the courts to wipe their record after 90 days from the time of the conviction.
The governor signed legislation last session that expanded the number of medical dispensaries that can operate in the state. And he also approved a bill to prevent police from searching people’s homes over the smell of cannabis.
Edwards also signed a bill in 2021 to allow patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally to smoke whole-plant marijuana flower.
Meanwhile, regulators last year decided to temporarily continue to allow doctors to issue medical marijuana recommendations via telemedicine.
A separate poll released last year by the University of New Orleans put support for marijuana legalization at 58 percent among Louisiana voters.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.