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Lawmakers discuss legal, health, revenue implications of legal marijuana

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Colorado. Washington. Louisiana?

The Louisiana House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice discussed the possibility of legalizing marijuana Tuesday afternoon in Baton Rouge.

As executive director of Shreveport's Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse Bill Rose says the designation "gateway drug" still holds up for marijuana. Rose says if you sample 16 of their younger clients 15 will admit to abusing pot.

"Most of them will indicate early onset of their addition or early use will include one of the three gateway drugs or a combination of them," Rose said.

Furthermore, Rose doesn't support legalization for recreation or medicinal use since prescription abuse is already on the rise.

"Whether we're talking about teenage or young adults, a lot of their addiction began- or abuse began- out of the medicine cabinets at home," Rose said.

Still, a recent public policy survey found more than half of Louisianans support changing laws to regulate and tax pot. Attendees at Tuesday's committee meeting were eager to drive that point home.

"We're asking you to pass this as a majority in this state," one man told the committee that includes Rep. Barbara Norton (D-Caddo). "It is our right to put whatever we want to in our bodies that is natural, but you tell us you would prefer us to take drugs such as Paxil."

Related article: Local state representatives say pro-marijuana laws not likely to pass

Louisiana State Police Col. Michael Edmonson and Charles Scott, Caddo Parish District Attorney, both spoke against legalization.

Lawmakers were interested in the revenue opportunities legalization may provide while cutting prison system costs.

There is a bill set for discussion at the upcoming legislative session that would reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession if passed.

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