Louisiana House committee advances bill to legalize recreational marijuana use 

A bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Louisiana advanced from a House committee today for the first time ever after three Republicans on the panel agreed to move the measure forward for a wider debate, The News Star reports.

Mandeville Republican Rep. Richard Nelson’s HB524 to legalize marijuana cleared the House Criminal Justice Committee on a 7-5 vote and advanced to the full House.

A second bill by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Candace Newell to decriminalize marijuana, HB24, also cleared the committee this morning.

Medical marijuana is already legal in Louisiana with efforts to expand that program also gaining momentum. Last week, the full House approved a bill by Pro-tem Tanner Magee, R-Houma, to add smokable marijuana to the state’s medical program.

Nelson says he would have been voted least likely to carry the banner for legalizing recreational pot in high school, where he was an Eagle Scout and valedictorian.

“I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life,” he says. 

But Nelson says he filed the bill to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older to make the product safer and generate tax revenue. The bill would allow local parishes and municipalities to opt out. See the full story.