Marijuana bills divide SW La. legislators

Jim Beam

Southwest Louisiana members of the state House split their votes on two marijuana bills, and seven of the nine representatives voted to put restrictions on the next governor’s emergency powers.

The House rejected a tax on marijuana for recreational use 47-49. Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, sponsored the tax measure and after it fell short by 23 of the required 70 votes (two-thirds), he tabled his legislation aimed at approving marijuana for recreational use.

Reps. Ryan Bourriaque, R-Abbeville; Wilford Carter, D-Lake Charles; and Les Farnum, R-Sulphur, voted for the tax bill. Reps. Dewith Carrier, R-Oberlin; Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff; Chuck Owen, R-Rosepine; Troy Romero, R-Jennings; Rodney Schamerhorn, R-Hornbeck; and Phillip Tarver, R-Lake Charles, voted against the bill.

The other split votes came on House Bill 652 by Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport. It was approved 68-25 and is awaiting action in the Senate. The legislation decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Glover’s bill eliminates the possibility of jail time if people are caught with up to a half-ounce of marijuana. It provides for a fine of $100. Bourriaque, Carter, Farnum, Geymann and Romero voted for the bill. Carrier, Owen, Schamerhorn and Tarver were against.

Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, is sponsor of the governor’s emergency powers bill. It was approved 58-33 Tuesday and moves to the Senate. Carter cast the only vote against the bill, and Carrier was recorded as absent.

Republicans in the House last year filed a petition to annul an emergency order by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards that is designed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The governor refused to cancel the order and filed suit, and a state district court judge nullified the petition.

Frieman said HB 149 still allows one chamber of the Legislature to draw up a petition with the advice of a public health expert. Rather than cancel the entire emergency order, the legislation says the petition can remove specific parts of the order.

The bill had been considered an effort to curb Edwards’ powers, so Frieman amended the legislation to make it effective when the next governor takes office in 2024.

“This is not a bill about Gov. Edwards,” Frieman said. “It has nothing to do with him personally. This is about the executive versus legislative branch.”
””Marijuana Legalization graphic

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