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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on legal weed, guns, unemployment checks, political future



LOUISIANA – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said this week he believes legalizing marijuana for recreational use is inevitable, but the pace should be measured and implementation must be studied before moving foward.

Edwards discussed pot and other issues during a wide-ranging interview on his monthly WRKF public radio show.

An upstart, but ultimately unsuccessful effort by Republican Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville to legalize pot is dead for this year, but a bill to decriminalize weed remains alive and an expansion of the medical pot program is considered a slam dunk for passage.

Edwards, a Democrat, said his attitude toward pot is evolving.

He supports expanding the state’s medical marijuana program to offer a smokable version of the medicine but has previously opposed legalization.

“I have come to believe (legalization) is going to happen in Louisiana eventually,” Edwards said. “We need to study it and learn all lessons learned from other states that have legalized it.

“I’m not quite comfortable yet … I want to make sure we get it right.”

Governor will veto ‘constitutional carry’ gun bills

Two nearly identical bills — one from Republican Thibodaux Rep. Bryan Fontenot and a second from Republican Monroe Sen. Jay Morris — that would allow people to carry concealed guns without permits or training have overwhelming support in the Legisalture.

But Edwards, who has a history of supporting previous gun rights’ expansions, reiterated his opposition to expanding the state’s current concealed carry law that requires training and a permit.

He said the current law “strikes the right balance” and cited a poll from a group that supports him showing a majority of Louisianans agree.

But both bills have cleared at least one full chamber with veto-proof margins and seem destined to land on Edwards’ desk.

Edwards won’t run for U.S. Senate against John Kennedy

Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South and the only statewide elected Democrat in Louisiana, said he doesn’t expect to run for another office.

There has been occasional speculation that Edwards would challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy in 2022. Edwards’ second term as governor ends in 2024.

“I don’t anticipate that I would continue in public life in terms of elective office,” he said. “I’m looking forward at the present to going back into the private sector.”

Edwards also said there’s been “zero conversation” about him getting an appointment from Democratic President Joe Biden.

“Nobody has reached out to me,” he said.

Will Edwards keep enhanced unemployment flowing?

A group of Louisiana business organizations has asked Edwards to opt-out of the enhanced $300 unemployment benefit provided by the federal government as part of COVID relief because they believe it’s a barrier for them to hire much-needed workers.

At least 17 governors have opted out of the enhanced benefit so far.

Edwards didn’t rule out cutting off the enhanced benefit, saying he’s still trying to determine “what’s right for Louisiana.”

“I don’t want to rush into this,” he said.