It appears as though hardcore “Red States” are starting to see the benefits of legalizing medical marijuana. At a time when other states are considering similar strategies as Colorado, Washington and New Mexico, the outlook for federal legalization of marijuana is starting to become more of a possibility.
It has been reported that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal will sign a set of bills for marijuana reform. This is possibly the strongest example to date that cultural norms are changing in the state and in surrounding, conservative, regions. State representative Austin Badon has been a strong voice for marijuana reform in Louisiana over the last several years. He’s seen a great shift in political interest since the moment he first lobbied for marijuana reform. “Over the last few years, legislators, they didn’t even want to talk about marijuana reform. They would not even give the bill a fair hearing in committee or even schedule it for a committee,” he explained. Badon has long advocated that legalization of marijuana could provide the state with increased tax revenues, reduce prison expenses, and provide much needed treatment for people suffering from debilitating conditions.
One of the bills that Governor Jindal is expected to sign looks to reduce jail time and fines for people who were previously arrested for marijuana possession. The measure looks to significantly reduce jail costs, saving the state about $17 million annually. In the past, Jindal has emphasized the need for sentencing reform, citing over crowded prison systems and high costs for holding prisoners who aren’t felons.
The second bill permits pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana to patients who are registered with the state. This would create a system in which physicians diagnose treatment of conditions such as epilepsy, Crohn’s disease or pain for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, providing them with prescriptions for marijuana. Medical marijuana has actually been legal in Louisiana since 1971, but there were never rules to regulate its cultivation and sales. But now, with companies such as BioTrackTHC™ providing POS and Inventory Management Solutions for growers and vendors, regulatory agencies have a platform to view all plant info from seed to sale.
Passing such bills was once an unthinkable act. But as other states are finding measures to regulate the growth and sales of marijuana and provide audit reports to regulatory agencies, those who were once strongly opposed are seeing the benefits. By initially legalizing medical marijuana, the state sets a time pattern that may one day lead to full legalization of recreational marijuana as well. Political analyst Mike Sherman doesn’t think citizens shouldn’t expect the legalization of recreational marijuana any time soon, but he is optimistic that it will happen one day. He thinks the new measures are a gradual push towards full legalization of marijuana in the not too distant future. “It’s a small step towards decriminalization, not yet legalization, but that’s the direction the legislature is heading in, keeping our prisons from becoming full of low level drug offenders.”