Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Another delay in vote to legalize marijuana in Louisiana, bill to be taken up Wednesday

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BATON ROUGE - As 67 percent of the state supports the recreational use of marijuana, lawmakers in the house for a second time, won't vote on a bill to decriminalize it.

"So we had some people absent that we needed to vote, we are also working on some amendments to bring more people on board,” said Representative Richard Nelson.

Representative Nelson is the author of the legislation that, if passed, would decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana. Monday he pulled that bill from the floor saying the language needs to be reworked to appease certain concerns.

"We are going to try and take out that home grow piece that allows people to grow it at home and it's basically a lesson learned from some of the other states like Colorado.” Rep. Nelson continued, “We're also decreasing the amount that you can legally possess, it was two and a half pounds we are looking at two and a half ounces instead.”

Even with those changes some proponents still aren't for decriminalization, specifically those in law enforcement. Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi, says he knows the passing is inevitable, but he wants lawmakers to take it slow.

"I think we ought to do more research and take baby steps into these things, and just don't swing open the doors for marijuana use,” said Sheriff Stassi.

While Rep. Nelson argues, there are nearly 10 years of research from states that have already legalized marijuana, there's no reason to hold off.

"All the states that have already legalized it, none of them have gone back." Rep. Nelson continued, "If it was really worse after they legalize it you would think that some of them would be considering going back but they're not. That's because they see the benefits and want to maintain the course."

But the sheriff still believes it’s a problem drug.

"It has historically been a gateway drug to all drugs and I just think it's a slippery slope,” said Stassi.

Rep. Nelson countering that by saying, it's a gateway drug because it's illegal and won't be when people can buy it from stores instead of drug dealers.

"Right now a drug dealer that's their business model, somebody comes in for marijuana and you get them hooked on something more profitable and more addictive,” said Nelson.

Adding the longer the state waits to decriminalize, the less money it could make.

"Kicking that can down the road is a 100 million dollars a year, so we can delay it but not only do we lose a 100 million in tax money, but we still send all the hundreds of millions of dollars to drug dealers and cartels which is less than ideal,” said Nelson.

Rep. Nelson is confident the bill will pass Wednesday. WBRZ asked if he'd be willing to compromise and he responded by saying he's always willing.


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