NEW ORLEANS— Fifty-three percent of Louisiana voters favor making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and regulating its sales, according to a July 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.
"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," said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Despite last session's failure to pass a bill to reform marijuana sentencing (HB 103), marijuana law reform is coming to Louisiana. Voters in this state are in agreement with the rest of America that marijuana should be taxed and regulated," Esman said.
Public Policy Polling surveyed a representative sampling of Louisiana registered voters to gauge Louisianans' views on medical marijuana use, reforming marijuana sentencing laws and legalizing marijuana. A majority, 53%, said they support taxing and regulating marijuana. Only 37% were opposed to legalization, while 10% weren't sure. Louisianans across the state were in support, with every region supporting the measure by at least 50%. Moreover, of those voters identifying themselves as "very conservative," 51% said they would support this measure. The survey shows 65% support for allowing seriously or terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana.
During the last legislative session, the ACLU supported one of the state's first pieces of reform legislation, HB 103, introduced by Representative Austin Badon of New Orleans. The bill would have reduced sentences for marijuana possession and made it more difficult for simple marijuana possession to be used under the Habitual Offender laws. And, according to the state Department of Corrections, it would have saved the state of Louisiana more than $70 million annually or 10% of the DOC's $700 million budget.
"This new poll also shows that a majority of Louisiana voters think it's time to change the state's outdated and overly harsh marijuana sentencing laws," said Esman. "The ACLU stands with the 59% of Louisianans who oppose long prison sentences, and 64% who oppose a sentence of life without parole for a marijuana offense."
Esman said Louisiana's elected officials should take notice that only 32% of poll respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports marijuana reform. "The way to secure widespread support is to work to reform these outdated and counterproductive laws," she continued.
"Unfortunately, a disproportionate number of marijuana prosecutions are of minorities, especially African Americans," said Esman. "In some parts of Louisiana, the likelihood of being prosecuted for marijuana is four times higher for African Americans than for whites."
Direct links to survey results: