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Pot Poll: Louisianans Favor Legalizing Marijuana, Reduced Sentences

Legalizing marijuana got a new puff of support in New Orleans and Louisiana this week. A poll conducted by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling revealed that 53 percent of Bayou State voters are in favor of weed no longer being a bad seed. In the New Orleans metro area, 54 percent of respondents supported decriminalized marijuana laws similar to those recently passed in Washington and Colorado.

The poll surveyed 636 Louisiana voters on July 31 and August 1. Respondents were asked whether they favored decriminalizing marijuana for people older than 21. The question also said marijuana would be taxed and regulated more strictly than alcohol.


Another question asked voters whether they were in favor of allowing medical marijuana to be obtained via prescription for people who are "seriously or terminally ill." To that question, 65 percent of statewide respondents said they were in favor, while 70 percent of New Orleans metro area respondents signified support.


The poll also asked about Louisiana's sentencing for marijuana possession, which has been deemed notably harsh in comparison to other states. According to PPP, 65 percent of New Orleans respondents opposed long prison terms for possession, while 72 percent opposed a life sentence without parole for a felon convicted of a marijuana offense. 


Sixty-seven percent of respondents favored a change in the law that would lighten the sentence for those caught with less than an ounce of weed to a $100 fine.


Statewide, the results were slightly less stark. Fifty-nine percent of respondents were opposed to long prison terms, while 64 percent opposed life sentences for felons. 


On the question of the change in the law, statewide voters were asked if they supported a change in the law that would allow for a $500 fine and six-month jail term to be the maximum pot possession sentence. Forty-seven percent of respondents supported the change, while 37 percent of the respondents opposed.


During the 2013 legislative session, State Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) sponsored a bill calling for a $500 fine and six months in jail to be the maximum sentence for a first possession offense. But the bill was defeated before making its way to the floor of the House of Representatives.


Marjorie Esman, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Louisiana chapter, said the poll was a sign that Louisiana voters are "in agreement with the rest of America that marijuana should be taxed and regulated."


"People understand that criminalizing marijuana has wasted public funds, has not made anyone safer, and that marijuana is not the danger it was thought to be," she said. "Despite last session's failure to pass a bill to reform marijuana sentencing, marijuana law reform is coming to Louisiana."

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