Monday, April 1, 2013
Written by IND Monthly Staff

Treating marijuana like cocaine and methamphetamine has had hugely unnecessary social and fiscal costs for American communities since the War on Drugs ramped up a few decades ago. Nearly half of the roughly 1.5 million drug arrests annually in the U.S. are for marijuana possession, and the cost of enforcing marijuana laws and incarcerating pot smokers is enormous: an estimated $5.5 billion annually. This is arguably even more germane to Louisiana, which has the highest incarceration rate in the nation. But a sensible bill by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Austin Badon addresses this issue. Badon’s House Bill 103 amends the criminal penalties for second and subsequent pot possession offenses, slashing the maximum jail time defendants face, and prevents prosecutors from applying habitual offender statutes to people convicted of marijuana possession. Long overdue. Now here’s hoping the bill gets a serious hearing on April 20.

Badon’s colleague in the House, Republican Frank Hoffmann of West Monroe, is at it again. The chief water boy for the Louisiana Family Forum has again filed a bill, HB 116, that would effectively neuter the state school board in its oversight of textbooks used in public schools in Louisiana. The LFF is a well-known proponent of setting Intelligent Design — creationism in a lab coat, in other words — right beside Darwinian evolution in biology classrooms, and getting the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education out of the text-selection equation is a nice place to start. Hoffmann’s bill among other things takes that authority away from BESE and gives it to local school boards, opening the door for Louisiana’s more evangelical parishes to introduce stunningly unscientific curricula into science classes. Sorry guys, but dinosaurs and homo sapiens — ermahgerd we said homo! — were not contemporaries. A similar bill filed in the 2011 session withered on the vine. We hope this one does, too.

There’s a Democrat in the White House, and he’s black, probably socialist and possibly Muslim. If that ain’t a Petri dish for cultivating crazy, we don’t know what is. Just check out the creeping fungus known as the SOAR (Save Our American Republic) Project, a bunch of Bible-thumping “patriots” pushing lawmakers — any lawmaker — to sponsor in the upcoming session the Louisiana Balance of Powers Act, a law that would give the Pelican State the “authority” to ignore federal law because, you know, guns and FEMA Death Cathedrals and stuff. Nary a state suckles Uncle Sam’s hammy man-teat more than Louisiana, but hey — don’t matter. As of this writing no lawmakers have pre-filed a bill along those lines, but the SOAR Project did find a compatriot in the “oath-keeping” sheriff of Iberia Parish. In a full-page ad in The Iberian, the SOAR Project thanks Louis Ackal — and reproduces his endorsement letter — for “Taking a Stand Against a Tyrannical Federal Government.” Citing an absence of [the Christian] religion in public places, Obamacare and the dire threat to the 2nd Amendment occasioned by background checks, Ackal vows to “defend the citizens of my parish from unconstitutional abuse or harassment by federal agents.” We wish him well in that noble endeavor. By noble endeavor we mean paranoia.

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