House passes Bryant’s resolution to ‘study’ legal marijuana

In an apparent signal that the legalization of marijuana is dead for this session, the House on Monday passed a resolution by Rep. Marcus Bryant, D-New Iberia, calling for a study of the “impact” of legalization and use of recreational marijuana.

Under Bryant’s HR1, the House Criminal Justice Committee, of which he is a member, would conduct the study and report its findings to the Legislature at least 14 days before next year’s regular session.

“We’re going to all the states to see what infrastructures they have in place,” Bryant told the House.

Bryant, whose District 96 includes Lafayette Parish east of the regional airport, would be a member of the study commission the resolution establishes. The other members would be the chairmen of the House Ways and Means, Agriculture and Health and Welfare committees or their designees. It would also include representatives of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, the medical marijuana business community, the LSU Agriculture Center, the Southern University Agriculture Center and the Voice of the Experienced.

Bryant tacked on a floor amendment adding the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and the Drug Policy Board, which he said “wanted to participate in the study.”

The resolution passed 63-28. The Lafayette delegation was split, with Republican Reps. Beau Beaullieu, Jean-Paul Coussan and Jonathan Goudeau and Democrat Vincent Pierre voting for the resolution and Republicans Stuart Bishop and Julie Emerson voting against it.

The fate of legalized marijuana for this session appeared sealed last Tuesday when the House rejected, by one vote, the bill that would have levied a 15% tax on retail sales of marijuana. Despite the close vote and 10 absentees, the bill’s author, Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, has not offered a motion to reconsider the bill, HB434, nor has he brought the legalization bill, HB699, up for a vote. That is likely because the 10 members recorded as absent when the House rejected the tax bill 47-48 included Speaker Clay Schexnayder. The speaker, who was in the presiding officer’s chair both before and after the vote on HB434, did not vote against the bill, but by avoiding going on the record for or against it he was sending a signal that he doubts the time has come for legalized marijuana in Louisiana.

Although the taxing bill failed, it showed that the idea for legalizing and taxing marijuana is drawing support from both parties. The 47 votes for it included 29 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one independent. The 48 nay votes included 43 Republicans, four Democrats and one independent. Among the Lafayette delegation, Bryant, Coussan and Pierre voted for it and Beaullieu, Bishop, Emerson and Goudeau voted nay.