Updated on November 19, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Louisiana has been progressive compared to other southern states when it comes to marijuana legalization and policy. One of the examples of progressive legislation is the ability of a physician to recommend cannabis for any health condition. Not just the specific qualifying health conditions initially provided.
The approach to compassionate care puts patients first. But the legalization of medical marijuana in Louisiana followed a long and challenging path. Despite being the first state to legalize cannabis in 1978, the state has been viewed as having one of the more restrictive programs in the country.
While other neighboring states are banning Delta-8 THC, Louisiana is passing legislation to allow retail sales of the hemp isomer product. In some states where Delta-8 is still permitted, it can only be sold by dispensaries.
But that won’t be the case in Louisiana. Lawmakers have decided that they will start issuing licenses for businesses interested in making cannabinoid-infused foods. That includes foods and beverages with CBD and Delta-8 THC.
In June 2021, Louisiana Gov. John Bell Edwards signed legislation that took an important first step toward cannabis criminal reform. Now, possession of up to 14 grams (about half an ounce) of cannabis is punishable by a $100 fine, without a criminal charge or imprisonment.
House Bill 699 would have legalized adult-use in Louisiana. However, on May 18, 2021, HB 699 failed to pass, losing by one vote (48-47). Not before receiving bipartisan support, however, in the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee.
The Louisiana Therapeutic Marijuana Act provides a list of qualifying health conditions that may make a patient eligible to receive medical cannabis. A physician health evaluation is required as part of the application process to become a registered patient in the Louisiana medical marijuana program.
Patients with one or more than one of the following health conditions may be qualified to receive a medical card in Louisiana:
If you do not have one of the qualifying health conditions, you may still be eligible to get a Louisiana medical card. New legislation allows physicians to recommend a patient at their professional discretion to the Louisiana medical marijuana program.
You must prove that you are a resident of the state of Louisiana to apply for a medical card. And provide government-issued photo identification.
Smokable cannabis has not been legalized for patients who have a Louisiana medical card. There are only a few types of products that patients can use, including edibles, pills and capsules, tinctures, topicals, and metered inhalers. Suppositories are also available.
The nine medical marijuana pharmacies in Louisiana will soon be able to provide smokable flower to patients, however. Gov. John Bel Edwards just signed House Bill 391 into law, expanding the types of medical cannabis that will be available in the state.
Currently, a maximum thirty-day supply of cannabis can be dispensed to a patient with a Louisiana medical card.
Patients must be eighteen (18) years of age or older at the time of application to be eligible for a medical card in Louisiana. Patients under eighteen years of age require a registered legal guardian or caregiver.
The doctor who completes your medical marijuana card health evaluation in Louisiana will set up your patient profile. And upload the documentation to show that you have been recommended to the Louisiana medical cannabis program.
Patients will choose the closest dispensary to their residence and designate that as their location to purchase cannabis products. That information will also be added to the patient profile by the physician.
If the patient receives a telemedicine health evaluation, it is possible to pick up medical cannabis the same day in some cases. Once the patient is entered into the Louisiana Prescription Monitoring Database, the patient registration is activated and ready to go.
Minors under the age of eighteen (18) years may still qualify for medical cannabis. The registration of a caregiver is required. That is an individual who is a parent or legal guardian of the child.
Caregivers are responsible for seeking recommendations on strains, potencies, and intake methods. And for administering medical marijuana to the minor for symptom management.
The first step is to register the child or minor in the Louisiana medical cannabis program. This requires a patient referral from a certified physician. The next step is to register the legal guardian as a caregiver with the Louisiana medical cannabis program.
Where a caregiver is designated for a minor, both the patient and the caregiver are required to renew their medical cannabis certificate on an annual basis.
Returning to the physician that helped certify you is one of the easiest and fastest ways to renew your medical card. That is because the doctor will have your health records and understand your diagnosis and symptoms.
An annual health check is required from the physician. And then, a renewal fee is payable to the Louisiana medical cannabis program. The physician will assist you with the renewal of your LA medical card. And often, the doctor will send you an email reminder about your annual renewal.
You actually cannot lose your medical card in Louisiana. That is because you never receive one. The whole registration process is online. Your physician orders your medical cannabis products like a prescription, which is filled at one of the nine dispensing locations in Louisiana.
At the time of writing, there were nine (9) pharmacy dispensaries across the state of Louisiana. The physician calls in the order for cannabis products for his or her patient. And the patient visits the pharmacy to pick up the prescription.
Currently, there are no retail dispensaries located in Louisiana. Cannabis products are compounded and dispensed to patients, per the prescribing physician’s orders.
You would not guess it, but Louisiana was the very first state to legalize medical marijuana. This was after the prohibition of cannabis became law in 1927. And there are some other interesting historical facts about the legalization of cannabis in Louisiana that may surprise you.
1927—Accounts of mass use of cannabis in the media caused a reaction among Louisiana lawmakers. In 1927, cannabis became a prohibited substance in Louisiana even though law enforcement records indicated only thirty (30) cannabis arrests and charges in the entire state in 1930.
Source Web 2021: southernspaces.org
1978—Act Number 725 of the 1978 Regular 11 Session legalized medical marijuana in Louisiana. It also created The Marijuana Prescription Review Board. Members were to be appointed by the LA Department of Health and Human Services. However, the HHS disagreed with medical cannabis use, so physicians and members were never appointed to the board. And patients were effectively blocked from having their petitions for medical cannabis reviewed and approved.
While it was legal for patients to request medical cannabis, even if a doctor prescribed it, there were no dispensaries, cultivators, or processors established in the state to provide products. This may have been another reason the HHS refused to appoint physicians to the board.
Source Web 2021: legis.la.gov
2019—An amendment to the original 1978 law added spastic quadriplegia to the list of qualifying health conditions. Act No.874 of the 1991 legislative session in Louisiana legalized referring patients to the medical cannabis program for physicians. This allowed qualified patients to be recommended by a doctor and receive medical cannabis.
The wording of the legislation got the state in a bit of trouble with the federal government, as it mentioned “prescribing” cannabis. That would have made any doctor participating guilty of a federal offense. The legislation did not provide any policies regarding dispensing or selling medical cannabis to patients.
Source Web 2021: nola.com
August, 1994—The rules for recommending medical marijuana and requirements for physicians are provided, but after the legislative deadline had passed. However, authorization for the cultivation of cannabis in the state of Louisiana was provided. As well as the legal framework for dispensing cannabis to patients with a medical card.
Source Web 2021: mpp.org
Patients may own up to a 30-day supply’s worth of non-smokable cannabis. Legislators plan to expand this definition soon.
Even with a recommendation, patients will not have the authority to grow their own medicine. They must go to a designated pharmacy or dispensary to buy medicine grown by the companies contracted by LSU and Southern University. These universities and their partners have the exclusive rights to grow medical marijuana in Louisiana, with no exceptions.