Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Could legalizing marijuana help fill Louisiana’s budget hole?

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Marijuana plants seized in raids on two Uptown homes in July 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo via NOPD)

Marijuana plants seized in raids on two Uptown homes in July 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo via NOPD)

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

As Gov. Jindal continues to make drastic cuts to the state’s budget, especially in education and public safety, income from the sale and cultivation of marijuana — even medical marijuana — could begin to fill the state’s budget gap.

Already three states and the District of Columbia have legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana, although the D.C.’s Council passed emergency legislation just yesterday to tighten up the law voters recently approved. Twenty-three states along with the District of Columbia have also legalized medical marijuana. The voters of Louisiana overwhelmingly supported the legalization of medical marijuana in a 2014 LSU poll. With tight regulation, it may also be possible that Governor Jindal could support medical marijuana, according to news reports.

Legislation authorizing medical marijuana has already been defeated in Mississippi in 2015, but similar legislation is pending in Louisiana and 11 other states this year including Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, just to name a few.

Like every president before him, Barack Obama and his administration oppose any legalization of marijuana because legalization would “increase the availability and use of illicit drugs, and pose significant health and safety risks to all Americans, particularly young people.” Opponents allege marijuana is addictive, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs.

Several members of Congress include U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy support medical marijuana. Proponents argue that medical marijuana can be an effective treatment for a variety of illnesses including cancer, AIDS, alzheimer’s, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, and hepatitis C. Current U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, cautiously has said that “preliminary data” shows that medical marijuana “can be helpful” in some situations.

State Representative Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, has pre-filed a bill that would allow for marijuana to be dispensed and distributed for medical purposes. Again this year Honore will be fighting an uphill battle that will pit him against social conservatives and much of the criminal justice establishment. Honore will have wide support from many citizens who consider Louisiana laws out of touch with changing times and attitudes. Though the state legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1991, legal dispensing of the drug is not allowed.

Louisiana residents who believe they would benefit from medical marijuana should form an alliance with one of the state’s four federally recognized Indian tribes. Federal authorities says they will not prosecute tribes that grow cannabis on their lands. Consuming medical marijuana on Indian lands might also fall outside the purview of state law enforcement officials. Yet none of the Louisiana-based tribes are currently engaged in such a venture.

Regulating and legalizing marijuana — even medical marijuana — would create jobs and economic opportunity in Louisiana and bring one of the state’s larger cash crops under the rule of law. Many young people (and those not so young) who experiment with drugs and alcohol often face incarceration and a criminal record that follows them throughout life. Surely there is a better solution.

Hillary emails will make little difference in Presidential campaign

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a 2009 trip to Haiti. (via state.gov)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a 2009 trip to Haiti. (via state.gov)

Now that Hillary Clinton has admitted using a private email account during her years as Secretary of State — an offense that Republican insider Karl Rove was previously guilty of — maybe Clinton will slow down her expected announcement that she will run for President.

But probably not.

The Federal Records Law requires that cabinet members and other high ranking officials transfer any emails sent from a personal account to a federal official within 20 days. Hillary, like Rove before her who sent emails from a personal account while working for the White House, may have acted inappropriately but not broken any laws. It’s clearly a grey area that has provided real-time fodder for Clinton’s opponents.

Did Clinton have something to hide? Probably not more than any other President or presidential candidate. With 50,000 pages of emails already having been released, no Watergate has been found. Unfortunately, a little bit of America’s history has also been lost from the emails not turned over.

Though emailgate is reverberating through Washington and across the nation, it will eventually blow over and focus return to which of the presidential contenders can better serve the American people.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

One thought on “Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Could legalizing marijuana help fill Louisiana’s budget hole?

  1. Via the ASHA program America’s Department of Health has spent 14 million dollars aiding Israel in their medical marijuana research. Israel now has 21,000 patients, 21 approved doctors, and Israeli Defense Force(IDF) veterans use cannabis for PTSD. There are approximately 20 cannabis based drugs in the FDA pipeline and the University of Mississippi cannabis program controlled by the DEA just licensed Liquid THC drops to pharmaceutical firm NEMUS. Cannabis is 9% additive. Same as coffee. Colorado studies there has NOT been in increase in drugged driving accidents. FBI data for Colorado shows crime has not increased and violent crime is down. Cannabis is safe and effective. Why it was outlawed is due to politics, money, and racism. Look…if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a patent and has licensed to three pharmaceutical firms what exactly would be the argument that cannabis is NOT medicine?

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