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Recreational cannabis in Louisiana is one step closer to becoming a reality. The House Criminal Justice Committee, by a vote of seven to five, pushed legislation that would allow the issue to go before Louisiana voters to the full House yesterday.

The proposal was authored by Mandeville Representative Richard Nelson. Nelson was quoted in an article by the Louisiana Radio Network,

What a vote for this bill does, is to acknowledge that the benefits to society is greater to have it legal, and have it taxed and have it regulated than it is just to have it be illegal and throw people in jail and fund cartels and fund the drug dealers

Representative Nelson went on to say that legalizing and then regulating and taxing recreational cannabis could generate almost $200 million dollars in revenue for the state.

Those who oppose recreational cannabis say the potential revenue legalizing and regulating the drug would bring in would be offset by a host of other problems. They cite data from other states where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use, including one study out of Colorado that showed marijuana was likely to be present in adolescents who commit suicide.

The full House is expected to begin debate on Nelson's legislation in the coming days. Should the measure pass it would then go to the Senate for approval from that body. If both chambers approve the measure voters would have the final say as to whether or not recreational cannabis should be legalized in Louisiana.

Since 2012, there have been 16 states that have legalized cannabis for use by adults over the age of 21. Medical marijuana has been legalized in 36 states. New Mexico, Virginia, and South Dakota have either voted on or passed legislation on cannabis use but those laws have not taken effect.

Louisiana legislators are also considering changes in the state's medical marijuana policy in this session too. Lawmakers are considering adding inhalable or raw marijuana to the list of approved delivery methods for the drug. Currently, Louisiana's laws only allow for the distribution of the drug through tinctures.

There are certainly valid arguments on both sides of this issue but ultimately we, the people, should be given the chance to decide. Meanwhile, we can contemplate making a gumbo while our hired hands in Baton Rouge try to sort this issue out.

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