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Louisiana pot laws under fire after Ol' Willie's bust

Jeremy Alford -   Oct 05, 2006

Country music star Willie Nelson was recently caught with a pound and a half of marijuana in Louisiana.
Photo: Chumash Casino
Country music star Willie Nelson was recently caught with a pound and a half of marijuana in Louisiana.

BATON ROUGE - A pound and a half of marijuana wasn’t the only thing country music legend Willie Nelson allegedly brought into Louisiana two weeks ago. Trailing close behind has been a wave of pro-pot advocacy spokesmen and global media attention.

Surprisng? Nope. After all, in the new movie “Beerfest,” Nelson appears as himself looking for teammates to compete in a dope-smoking contest. He’s also a pitchman for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

In fact, NORML released a study the same day Nelson was busted indicating marijuana arrests are at an all-time national high. Adding fuel to the media fire is actor Johnny Knoxville who has been lobbying on Nelson’s behalf - to keep the leather-faced singer out of jail.

Now media outlets ranging from Entertainment Weekly to England's stodgy old BBC News are dissecting Louisiana’s statutes, which could send Nelson to jail for six months for a first offense plus nick him for a maximum $500 fine.

Positive PR – and a good lawyer – might help Nelson wiggle off the hook as he did after being charged with a similar misdemeanor in Texas 12 years ago. But no amount of celebrity posturing is likely to loosen up Louisiana’s marijuana laws anytime soon.

The idea to stiffen penalties for first-time offenders was floated during this year’s regular session. And the onset of the legislative election cycle promises a continuing hard line on drugs.

That's not to say everyone is on board - they aren't. Governor Kathleen Blanco has been receptive to medicinal use of marijuana in the past. One of her committee chairman has said he will grant any decriminalization bill a fair hearing just as he would with any other topic.

Rep. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, said it won’t likely come to a hearing, though, unless a rogue lawmaker, liberal judge or district attorney not seeking re-election leads the charge.

Martiny also said he would oppose any move to weaken Louisiana’s marijuana statutes because his constituents want tough laws on the books.

“I don’t think there are any districts in the state with a real liberal majority that would want us to weaken our laws," Martiny said.

What to do with Ol’ Willie...parish people sound off

"Should Willie Nelson have been thrown in jail for his recent marijuana bust? If so, for how long? Why or why not?

“No. I don't think anyone should.......” ~ Dee, Boutte

“Not only thrown in jail, but he should have been charged with intent to distribute. His celebrity status doesn’t change the fact that no one person is going to realistically smoke as much pot as he had. Sharing is still distributing.” ~Rick, Hahnville

“No one is above the law. If I would get arrested for it, then so should he.” ~ Jeff, Boutte

“He should not go to jail. Marijuana should be legalized...its already used for medicinal purposes.” ~ Amanda, Paradis

Questions? Comments? Write to Jeremy Alford in care of Ann Taylor at the Herald-Guide:

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