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Residents of Louisiana have cause to celebrate! More Louisiana residents will get access to medicinal cannabis with recent marijuana law reforms. On June 15, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill expanding the scope of the state's medical marijuana program.
The new law, which takes effect August 1, will allow the following:
- Remove restrictions on the prescription of medicinal cannabis. The buck will stop with clinicians and not policy makers as should have been from the very beginning.
- The list of qualifying conditions has been expanded from the 15 conditions that were previously approved to “infinity.” This means that doctors will have the liberty to use their discretion to prescribe medical marijuana for any “debilitating condition” as they deem fit.
- The new law removes restrictions on prescribing medicinal cannabis treatment. Doctors will no longer be required to register with and receive authorization from the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to recommend medical marijuana treatment for debilitating conditions.
- The new law limits marijuana cultivation for medical use in the state to two agricultural institutions: the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University.
The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Larry Bagley of Stonewall, chairman of the House health committee. The bill was supported overwhelmingly at both levels: The House voted 75-16 while the Senate agreed in a 28-6 vote.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Louisiana in 2015. The current medical marijuana program allows cannabis use for the treatment of chronic disorders including:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Intractable pain
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Seizure disorders
- Severe muscle spasms
The new law expands the list of qualifying conditions to include any debilitating condition that a qualified physician recommends for this type of treatment.
The governor also signed a separate bill to allow financial institutions to transact with marijuana businesses without being penalized. This law also takes effect August 1.
Marijuana Laws in Louisiana
With recent medical marijuana reforms in Louisiana, it's likely that full legalization is not just a pipe dream in the Pelican state. Before we get there, here is the real situation on the ground.
Recreational Marijuana in Louisiana
Recreational marijuana is yet to be legalized in Louisiana. If a driver is found guilty of using marijuana or any other drug in Louisiana their driver’s license will be taken away for a minimum period of 30 days.
If you are caught in possession of between 2.5 and 60 pounds of marijuana, you will receive a minimum sentence of two years in jail. If you are caught with small amounts of recreational weed less than 2.5 pounds you will receive a sentence of not less than six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. Possession of over 60 pounds of weed will attract a fine of between $100,000 to $1,000,000 and jai time of between 2-25 years. However, there are efforts being made to decriminalize possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana.
Decriminalization of Marijuana
Discussions on decriminalizing marijuana are ongoing at the local level. For example, the city of New Orleans decriminalized possession of marijuana in 2016. Under the law, law enforcement officers are required to issue a ticket instead of arresting those found in possession of marijuana. Jail time for marijuana possession was also eliminated and replaced by a small fine of $40 to $100.
Is Hash Legal in Louisiana?
Hash is a concentrated form of marijuana that contains high amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that is responsible for the euphoric feeling. Hash is classified as a scheduled substance due to the high concentration of THC. Consequently it is illegal in Louisiana.
Is Marijuana Concentrate Legal in Louisiana?
Like hash, cannabis concentrates contain high amounts of THC. Consequently, cannabis concentrates are illegal in Louisiana.
Medical Marijuana in Louisiana
Medical marijuana was legalized in Louisiana in 2015 when the bill SB 143 was signed into law. This bill lays the framework for the medicinal marijuana program in the state.
Medical marijuana became available to patients in Louisiana in August 2019, four years after it had been legalized. To date there are nine dispensaries that offer medical marijuana products legally to patients in the Pelican State.
Medical marijuana patients can access this treatment in the form of cannabis tinctures, capsules, and topical applications. Cannabis inhalers have also been allowed.
Licensed sellers of medical marijuana in the state are required to affix a state-issued stamp on all marijuana products. This mandatory requirement helps in tax revenue collection.
Once the new law takes effect more patients will be able to access medical marijuana products in the state. This is a win-win for both the patients and the state: the state is bound to collect more revenue from the sale of medical marijuana products.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the globe causing downward mobility in different sectors of the economy, the marijuana industry has witnessed formidable growth- shockingly. Marijuana dispensaries have reported high sales volumes in spite (or perhaps because of) the pandemic.
A couple of theories have been fronted to explain this surprising trend. Some sources claim that medicinal cannabis patients have been rushing to stock-up on cannabis supplies, just in case the supply runs out. Others sources claim that increasingly more people are turning to marijuana to find relief from the anxiety that comes with the pandemic. While other sources claim that people are using marijuana for relaxation, now that they are holed up in their homes.
With the medical marijuana law reforms in Louisiana it is highly likely that a similar pattern depicting an upsurge in sales is going to be replicated in the Pelican state.