Yesterday was a big victory for medical marijuana in Louisiana. The state Board of Medical Examiners voted 8-1 to increase statewide access to medical marijuana. One of the main ways in which they’re doing this is by eliminating the patient limit.
There are only a dozen or so doctors approved to prescribe cannabis in the state. Previously, each of those doctors was limited to only 100 patients each, and they hit their limits within weeks of beginning to see patients. This left hundreds of patients that had been approved for prescriptions stuck on waiting lists.
Greater patient access to medical marijuana may be just what the doctor ordered for Louisiana’s opioid epidemic. Research shows that in spite of national indicators of the opioid crisis are going down, in Louisiana the number are remaining relatively steady (some are still rising). If doctors can begin to prescribe cannabis for medical use instead of opioids, those numbers could finally start to decline.
But I would argue that it’s time to take things a step farther and lift the restrictions on marijuana use – medical or otherwise – completely in the state of Louisiana. It’s time to push for full legalization. Why?
Because Louisiana is in the middle of a crippling budget crisis. The state is hemorrhaging money, with far too little income to keep up with the needs of its citizens. But instead of cutting education or other much-needed services, let’s shift our focus to how we can create more income for the state – quickly.
Legalized recreational marijuana is the answer.
Take a look at Colorado. The state has now raked in over half a billion dollars in revenue from cannabis-focused businesses. In the first year of legalization, they raised $76 million in marijuana tax revenue.
Imagine what Louisiana could do with $76 million. The state currently only spends $7.3 million on education. What kind of schools could we build with so much more income? What new services could we offer students?
Not only that but imagine the jobs that would be created. New dispensaries, edibles shops, and small farms. Stores specializing in hemp products and merchandise. All of those lead more jobs, higher employment numbers and better business for Louisiana.
How many roads could we fix? What new flood protections could be built in New Orleans? How much could we invest in things like the Coastal Restoration Project?
I’m not saying that legalization would be without its own issues. Nor am I suggesting that this one step could be the answer to all of the state’s problems. But you have to admit that a huge increase in state income, hundreds of new businesses, and thousands of new jobs could go a long way towards giving the people of Louisiana some breathing room.
And, hey – we wouldn’t have to take away any more money from our state’s colleges, schools, and teachers. That’s always a good thing.