Marijuana Reform in Colorado; an Example for Louisiana?


Medical

Skiing in Colorado provides a beautiful contrast. The fresh, white capped mountains, the sunny clear skies; flooded with red, red eyes ready to feel the wind against their stoned, soon to be sunburnt, faces. Oh, what a sight. Red eyes, white snow, blue skies; so patriotic. Here in louisiana, our streets are flooded with..water. But this is completely irrelevant.

Let us continue talking about Colorado. We all know they have paved the way for medical and legal marijuana across America. We all know they’re super chill. But are they even that chill?

Yes, they are practicing marijuana reform all for their love of the green stuff; but when I say “green stuff,” I’m not talking about weed. I’M TALKING ABOUT MONEY, YOU GUYS, THEY LOVE MONEY AS MUCH AS WE DO. DON’T LET THEIR CHILL VIBES FOOL YOU!

Has marijuana reform helped Colorado’s economy? Exponentially. As of two years ago, legalizing marijuana created 18,005 full-time jobs and adding $2.4 billion to the state’s economy. In 2017, the state of Colorado accumulated $105,497,047 in tax revenue from the marijuana industry. These accumulated funds are going towards incredibly worthwhile programs; many of which New Orleans desperately needs.

In Colorado, money put in the “Marijuana Tax Cash Fund” is going towards low income housing plans, mental health support for incarcerated individuals, and health plans in schools. Additionally, money is being allocated to  addressing and ending opioid abuse. It seems weed is not being used as a gateway drug. Let us address how these four topics are huge potential incentives for the state of Louisiana.

Low Income Housing

Right now, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the New Orleans City Council are discussing inclusive affordable housing.  Cantrell hopes to implement mandatory inclusionary zoning, a practice which would require private housing developers to set aside a certain percentage of their property for low income housing. Orleans Parish desperately needs such housing plans, as we have over 41,250 households living in poverty.  Many republicans oppose these plans because it could lessen the profitability of housing projects for developers. Council members are looking for potential incentives in order for these bills to pass. This is why Colorado has allocated money from the marijuana industry towards this cause. We could do this too!

Mental Health and Drugs in Jails

From Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans holds significant trauma, which means we are amidst a mental health crisis that  too often goes unaddressed. Additionally, our state as a whole has the highest percentage of prisoners per capita in America. It is no surprise, then to hear that a large majority
of these prisoners are in for profit prisons. These prisons have monetary incentives to keep inmates in them. It is a $182 million dollar industry. The more inmates, the more profits for those in the business, many of whom are sheriffs.  Prison lobbyists protect these sheriffs by blocking any sort of potential legislation reform. So taxpayers are paying billions of dollars to keep prisons full of people. Many of these people experience mental health issues; Many who act unlawfully are not healthy (this is simply logic). Others
develop serious mental health issues because these for profit prisons, again, a $182 million dollar industry, hold unlivable conditions for inmates. A painfully high percentage of these inmates are imprisoned for non-violent drug related (including marijuana) offenses.

Without mental health care, drug addicts, along with those suffering from other mental issues, will. not. get. better.  This is what entrepreneurs wrapped up in private prisons want. This is a huge fucking problem. As stated earlier, Colorado is using taxpayer money from the medical marijuana industry to aid in the mental
health of incarcerated individuals, so that they can get better and contribute to society. Meanwhile, we are spending taxpayer money on keeping mentally ill people in prison for as long as possible so rich people can get richer. Let’s use Colorado as our inspiration and with the extra tax payer money from medical
marijuana, address the complete mess that is our prison system!

Wellness in Schools

Speaking of complete messes, let’s talk about New Orleans schools. We have an abundance of health, safety and security problems to address throughout schools in America. New Orleans is very far from this exception. I have worked in multiple schools here. On my first job as a sub, I walked into a classroom with no guidance and was told by the students that I was not allowed to let them out of the class because the school was on lockdown as a result of a potential gun sighting. This was an extremely low income school with desperate needs for the funds to hire enough staff to help inform subs of logistics, for example. At another school, I was teaching multiple children with emotional based and learning disabilities in the same classroom as the general population. These students were in my classroom because there were zero resources for them. This was not the desire of the administration, who was well aware that in such an environment, specifically with a teacher who did not have the proper training to help them (that’s me!) these students would not thrive. We are not discussing the wealthy private schools in town, we are discussing the Charter schools with huge hearts, incredible care, and no resources. Let us please allocate funds to the safety of our children.  You can look up the BEST fund in Colorado to find inspiration for this.

Moving on. Prescription drugs in Louisiana are not taxed. Because medical marijuana is recommended by doctors, as opposed to prescribed (this is simply jargon used as a way to keep doctors safe from the federal government) it is, and will be taxed. This of course favors the government of Louisiana, and not those in need of the drug. Let us hope that Louisiana will use Colorado as inspiration for how to distribute medical marijuana profits.

Private companies are gearing up to profit from medical marijuana sales. They are the ones responsible for partnering with LSU and Southern University, the two institutions where marijuana will be grown and cultivated into edible medicine. To protect funding for these schools and as a result of legislation, it is in
the hands of private companies to aid in the purchasing of marijuana seeds, growing facilities, funding teams of scientists, and more. This venture costs between 10 and 20 million dollars.  Of course giving the seed money (pun intended) to this process will generate future revenue for any private company involved.

Many jobs will be created in this process. This is a new business. Consultants will be hired to help LSU, Southern, and pharmacies manage their new product. Experts will come in to oversee licencing. The facilities need to be designed in a particular way to best explore this new product. Security will be a huge
concern and therein a huge creation of jobs. The list goes on! This is a previously underground business that will bring new opportunities to those who have never had any in their expertise. This aspect alone could keep more people, full of talent but void of opportunity, out of unjust trouble.

Louisiana is paving the way for the deep south. We have joined 30 other states and will soon prove to our neighbors the financial, medical, and social benefits of legalizing medical marijuana.

 

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out Madeline’s previous piece on Marijuana Reform as well as Big Easy Magazine’s Editorial Roundtable!

 

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