The scales have tipped in favor of legal weed in Louisiana. 55 percent of state residents now support legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, according to a new report from the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Support for legal marijuana still isn’t as high as support for legalizing sports betting or expanding gun rights, but it does mark a turning point in views on the issue in a state with that’s still cracking down on cannabis.
The major takeaways from the survey are that a majority of Louisiana residents want sports betting, don’t want any bans or limits on assault rifles or large-capacity magazines and do want marijuana legalization. But support for legal weed enjoyed the smallest majority of the three, at 55 percent.
But that 55 percent hides the dramatic differences in views on legal adult-use cannabis across age groups. According to the report, 80 percent of 18-29 year olds support legalizing. Support drops off slightly, to 67 percent, among 30-49 year olds, before hitting an even split among Boomers aged 50-65. From there, attitudes swing sharply back toward prohibition, with 69 percent of those 65 and older opposing adult-use legalization.
Support for legalization was also much higher in the metro New Orleans area. In the north of Louisiana, a majority of residents still oppose legalization. The report says the rest of the state splits the difference more evenly.
Interestingly, the data also shows that those with less education were less likely to support legalization than those with some college education or a four year degree. Just 47 percent of survey participants with a high school education or less supported legalization, while 61 percent of those with some college support it.
Political party affiliation also made a difference, but not by much. About half of all Republicans opposed legalization, while 55 percent of Democrats supported it.
The 2019 Louisiana Survey is the eighteenth in an annual series conducted by the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs. The survey primarily establishes benchmarks of change in residents’ assessments of state government agencies. But it also aims to be a barometer of public opinion on the contemporary policy issues facing the state. This year, the survey gathered data on a number of issues ranging from teacher pay and Medicaid expansion to gun policy and marijuana legalization.
But despite shifting attitudes toward more progressive drug policy, Louisiana police continue to enforce the state’s harsh cannabis laws and mandatory minimum sentences. Across Louisiana, some local jurisdictions have enacted their own laws or resolutions to fully or partially decriminalize minor possession. But in those places, police have turned to cracking down on hemp CBD retailers.
Thanks to the major change in federal drug policy ushered in by the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp products containing less than 0.3 percent THC are legal nationwide. But Louisiana has a law on the books prohibiting products that contain any THC. So law enforcement officials have been handing out notices threatening citations to any business selling CBD products, especially oils.
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