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NEW ORLEANS — State lawmakers are reportedly discussing legalizing marijuana in Louisiana.

To help fill an immediate $850 million budget shortfall, the governor wants to raise taxes while Republicans want deeper reductions. On Monday, the appropriations committee backed bills that would force state contract cuts and require more reporting before deals are struck, but more drastic measures need to be taken.

Den-A Tiberius is the owner of The Herb Import Company, an herbal remedy shop based in New Orleans that offers detox products, vitamins and smoking supplies.

Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Louisiana, but it is legal in Colorado where Tiberius frequently travels for business. 

“They are literally making millions and millions of dollars in tax revenue,” Tiberius said. “They are creating an industry. People are moving there.”

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The Denver Post reported Colorado’s Department of Revenue collected more than $135 million in marijuana taxes and fees in 2015, with $35 million going to schools. Tiberius said it just makes sense to legalize it here.

“And fund mental health care, education, drug education. You name it. And show the practicality and responsibility behind using cannabis, instead of demonizing it and putting people in jail, which we cannot afford to do. anymore,” Tiberius said.

Sources tell Eyewitness News that a bill to legalize marijuana may be proposed this session. However, calls to several key lawmakers about the issue were not returned.  
“I just don’t think it sends the right message that we’re going to legalize it because we have a budget problem,” Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser said.

Nungesser said he would look to the sheriff’s offices across the state and go with their recommendations. Last year, Governor Bobby Jindal signed a law reducing penalties for marijuana possession. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand was opposed to the idea and railed against the then-proposal in a fiery tirade during a press conference.

“The havoc it will wreak on our streets will be insurmountable,” Normand said.

Many think legalization through legislation here is a long shot.

“I think if it were put to a referendum and everybody could vote on it, yes, it would happen,” Tiberius said.

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