Supporters wanting to decriminalize marijuana meet at Louisiana State Capitol _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Breston Youngblood, a Columbia farmer, advocated Monday for Louisiana legislators to approve bills that would legalize marijuana.

Proponents of loosening the state’s restrictive criminal laws on marijuana use and purchase argued from the State Capitol steps Monday that legalizing the herb would help raise revenues for the state while providing some patients with a less expensive way to treat pain and the side effects of chemotherapy.

Breston Youngblood, a farmer near the northeast Louisiana town of Columbia, says he takes very expensive prescribed medication to treat his bipolar disorder. But his physician recommended marijuana as a cheaper alternative.

In addition to the expense, the drug he is prescribed causes him to be so listless that working is difficult, he said.

Youngblood was one of the speakers at a small rally sponsored by the Louisiana Cannabis Coalition in support of House Bill 6, which would loosen restrictions on the supply of marijuana for medical uses, and House Bill 117, which would decriminalize the drug.

He argues that legalizing marijuana would provide an herbal remedy that could be taxed and would be distributed by pharmacies, thereby taking drug dealers out of the mix.

Youngblood said he farms herbs and vegetables that are bought by restaurants. If pot were legal, farmers like him could easily add the plant to their inventory and create a new local industry that could provide Louisiana residents locally as well as create a new tax base for the state government.

Patrick Quinones, of Baton Rouge, said marijuana can be used to treat a wide variety of maladies from pain to combatting the nausea that accompanies chemotherapy. He estimates that about a thousand Louisiana residents are using marijuana for medicinal purposes. People, like him, are considering moving from Louisiana to avoid arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for buying and using the illegal drug.

During last year’s legislative session, similar bills were defeated in committee after being opposed by the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.