The US House of Representatives Passed a Marijuana Decriminalization Bill That Could Change Louisiana

The House of Representatives passed a landmark bill today that will decriminalize marijuana across the country. The MORE Act will remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act’s list of scheduled substances and will expunge all marijuana-related convictions. 

Furthermore, the bill formally acknowledges how criminalizing marijuana destroyed lives and families, so it stipulates that there will be a 5% tax on marijuana sales to help those who were most impacted by its criminalization. 

Those most affected by the criminalization of marijuana were people of color, despite the fact that a 2020 study done by the ACLU found that black and white people use marijuana at nearly identical rates. The same study found that in Louisiana black people are 3.4 times more likely than white people to be arrested for possessing marijuana. 

This is all the more unsettling when you consider that in 2018, 40% of drug arrests were marijuana offenses, with over 90% of those arrests being simply for possessing cannabis. 

It’s impossible to live in this state without knowing that we have an incarceration problem. Louisiana has been called the incarceration capital of the world, and even with recent reform still has an incarceration rate that’s much higher than the rest of the nation. 

This decriminalization legislation could further reduce Louisiana’s prison population and the number of people being charged for non-violent marijuana-related crimes while helping those who have been charged in the past. 

The story of Derek Harris, a military veteran who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2008 for selling $30 worth of marijuana and then a life in prison in 2012 under the Habitual Offender Law, highlighted how inhumane and corrupt Louisiana’s marijuana policies are. 

Recently, upon reviewing his case, and recognizing all of his offenses were nonviolent and related to his untreated drug addiction, his ruling was overturned 9 years after he had entered prison. 

There are other people with similar stories to Derek Harris, in Louisiana prisons who don’t belong there and could be freed by this ground-breaking, life-changing legislation. 

Recognizing the disparities in who is criminally charged for marijuana possession, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York commented on the bill, “Marijuana use is either socially acceptable behavior or it’s criminal conduct, but it can’t be socially acceptable behavior in some neighborhoods and criminal conduct in other neighborhoods when the dividing line is race.”As John Mulaney put it, marijuana has never been illegal for white people. 

Of course, some Republican leaders in the Senate, acting as if they haven’t been killing and stalling stimulus bills for weeks, have tried to label the bill as “unimportant in the current COVID crisis” which it is to them because they’ve never cared about the communities that cannabis’s criminalization affected. 

Calling this bill unimportant is not understanding what impact it could have on imprisoned people, prisons that have experienced huge surges in COVID cases, and the impact this bill could have on medical patients who have been denied medicine to treat their pain, stress, and anxiety. The decriminalization will also impact our struggling economy, which could benefit from a huge boost from the massively profitable marijuana industry, which has earned $19.1 billion just this year.

The 5% tax that this bill stipulates would be collected on all marijuana sales will directly help those who were negatively impacted by marijuana’s criminalization, people who indubitably are suffering the most in the recession right now. 

Representative Jerry Nadler for New York, commenting on how marijuana’s criminalization can ruin lives even after incarceration, stated, “The effects of marijuana prohibition have been particularly felt by communities of color because it has meant that people from the communities couldn’t get jobs…you want to make whole these communities, and you want to compensate.” 

Yet, Republicans will continue to label this bill as frivolous and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already stated he has no plans to bring up the legislation, completely ignoring the fact that many of their own states support the decriminalization of marijuana. 

Fifteen states have legalized recreational cannabis, and 36 legalized medical marijuana including largely conservative states like Mississippi. 70% of Americans now live in states where recreational or medical cannabis is legal. 

Mandie Landry, a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, commented that even if the bill wasn’t successful, Louisiana should take it as inspiration. “For once, Louisiana doesn’t have to be last – we can be next, to decriminalize and then legalize marijuana. We need to stop arresting people, start making money, and invest it in the communities most hurt by the failed drug war.”

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *