Move to legalize adult-use marijuana in Louisiana falls short

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An attempt to legalize adult-use marijuana died in the Louisiana House, but not before signs emerged that such an effort might eventually find success.

House Bill 699 lost by a vote of 48-47 on Tuesday, but the legislation found bipartisan support in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee, The Advocate reported.

The Baton Rouge newspaper also noted that the bill “became the first legalization instrument to reach the full House for debate.”

The measure needed 70 votes to pass in the predominantly Republican House.

The intent of House Bill 699, sponsored by Republican Richard Nelson, was to tax the sale of marijuana.

But it also served as a test case for another Bell measure, House Bill 434, which was designed to allow the sale and possession of recreational marijuana, The Advocate reported.

Despite tabling a vote on House Bill 434 after House Bill 699’s defeat, Bell said the vote “absolutely changed the discussion,” according to The Advocate.

“Two months ago, if you said this was going to be debated on the floor, people would have said you’re nuts,” he added.

“People in general support it, regardless of where the politicians are.”

Though the tax measure failed, there were signs during the process that viewpoints are changing, according to The Advocate:

  • A few marijuana adversaries acknowledged that legalization will eventually come to fruition.
  • The powerful Louisiana Sheriffs Association, which fought the tax measure, agreed to research the marijuana issue in advance of the 2021 legislative session.

Louisiana began legal medical marijuana sales in August 2019, and the industry has showed signs of promise.