The Maroon

Editorial: Up in smoke

It is time to change the precedent of Louisiana having some of the harshest laws against marijuana

The Maroon

The Maroon

The Maroon

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Imagine a student is sitting in Buddig Hall at the end of the day after completing a week of exams. They suffer from severe migranes but rather than popping a few pills, they discretely light the end of a small pipe they keep for special occasions.

Then comes a bang on their door.

Someone on their floor could smell it and soon enough Residential Life is searching their room for evidence. When they find it, Loyola University Police escorts them from the building – possibly in handcuffs – and passes them along to the New Orleans Police Department.

They had less than half a gram of marijuana in their room, but between paraphernalia and possession, they are looking at university penalties, a large fine, losing their federal financial aid and possibly jail-time.

The fear of getting caught with marijuana in New Orleans is certainly merited. The cost of the offense, even something as simple as having one joint, is $500 or six-months in prison, sometimes both.

Revising marijuana laws may mean many things to Louisiana, such as unclogging our prisons. Various news sources report that Louisiana incarcerates approximately 400 people a year based upon a simple charge of marijuana possession, with sentences of 1.5 years on average.

Two bills proposed by state representatives may prove that there is hope for changing marijuana laws in Louisiana. So don’t throwout that roach just yet, there is still hope for the state.

State Representative Aaron Badon’s bill proposes softening the punishment of possession. Representative Dalton Honore’s bill proposes to legalize the distribution of medical marijuana to qualified patients.

From the viewpoint of students at a university that stands for social justice, we support these bills. But we would even like to take it a step farther to say that the minor movements proposed in the bills are not enough. When 40 percent of the U.S. has at least decriminalized marijuana, we in New Orleans are frustrated with how far behind Louisiana is.

The social and economic costs of supporting marijuana users in prisons is nonsensical in comparison to the $3.5 million in marijuana tax revenue and fees that Colorado reported for the end of the month on January 2014 alone.

We believe that students in New Orleans express to our government the dire need to loosen regulations. There is no reason that marijuana users should be considered so much of a threat that a five-year prison sentence is as easy as pounding a gavel. According to Louisiana law, mixing poisonous substances into a drink with intentions to harm a person results in a prison sentence of no longer than two years.

So, let’s say that John gets caught trying to put a roofie in your drink. Meanwhile, Jane is caught smoking marijuana for the second time. John gets a two-year prison sentence and Jane gets a five-year prison sentence. This is justice in the eyes of the Louisiana judicial system.

Passing a bill for medical marijuana is a step toward lessening the cruel and unusual treatment of marijuana crimes. Lessening the punishment of offenders has been proposed and passed in other conservative states such as Mississippi and Kentucky. Why is Louisiana so far behind?

New Orleans is known as a liberal anomaly in Louisiana; simultaneously New Orleans is also regarded as having incredibly high crime-rates in the U.S.

Despite the positions of its residents the New Orleans Parish Prison is overcrowded with minimal offenders like marijuana smokers. Under that habitual offenders law in Louisiana people can go to jail for life for engaging in recreational activity that is legal or decriminalized in 20 states – that is 40 percent of our country.

We call for students to register as voters in the state of Louisiana and to have a voice in this debate. Changing your residency is incredibly easy. All you need to do is apply for a Louisiana state identification card and then submit an application on la.gov.

As students at Loyola, we are tied to this community for at least four years, and it is our prerogative to make our voices heard. Vote for leaders that may want to lessen the harsh laws and penalties, relieve our over-crowded prisons and demand true justice.

Vote to get the gears cranking toward making this state as fair and profitable for all – now pass along that joint-effort.

The editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial board. 

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