A St. Tammany Parish lawmaker is the latest to file bill seeking to legalize and tax recreational cannabis.

Rep. Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville) has a series of such bills pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session.

The first is the legalization bill itself. If the legislature approves the measure, voters would decide if recreational marijuana will be legal for people 21 years or older. That statewide referendum would be held in November 2022.

The other bills set up a taxing and fee structure for legalized weed sales. Under those proposals, weed retailers would pay a $2,500 annual license fee to sell cannabis. Anyone who wants to grow their own cannabis would pay the state an annual $100 fee.
Under the proposed tax structure, 20 percent of the sales taxes collected would go to law enforcement in the municipality or parish where the sale happened. Thirty percent would go back to the local government. The remaining half would go into the state treasury.

For example: Twenty percent of sales taxes collected on legal marijuana sales in the city of Lafayette would go to the Lafayette Police Department, while thirty percent would go to the Lafayette city general fund. For sales outside of city limits and in unincorporated areas, that money would go to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office and to the Lafayette Parish general fund.

Nelson is framing these bills not only as a way to generate new tax revenue for the state and local governments, but also as a way to reduce a burden on the state's criminal justice system.

"Visit any misdemeanor court in Louisiana and you will quickly be convinced of the failed state of Louisiana’s drug policy," Rep. Nelson wrote on an op-ed piece sent to Louisiana news outlets. "The courtrooms are filled with scared Louisianans missing work and school for possession of marijuana. Drive down any road, visit any school, or talk with any cop and you will realize that there are greater priorities for our tax dollars than marijuana enforcement. Sixteen states and counting have legalized recreational marijuana. It is time for Louisiana to stop making criminals out of our citizens, put the drug dealers out of business, and use the tax proceeds to build a better state."

The bills will be assigned to committees after the legislative session begins on Monday.

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