There are a few patients who meet medical marijuana qualifications in Louisiana, but the program remains largely unworkable for most people suffering from severe illnesses and debilitating conditions. Louisiana state legislature passed a law in 2015 with the intention of legalizing medical marijuana. Because of the language specifically permitting physicians to “prescribe” marijuana, the bill failed. However, Senate Bill 271 — signed on May 19, 2016 — amended the failed bill’s literature to correctly read “recommend.”
Additionally, the state legislature prohibits the inhalation and vaping of cannabis, in conjunction with maintaining a ban on the actual marijuana plant. However, while the state legislature allows for the lawful possession of medical marijuana by a qualified patient, it doesn’t contain provisions addressing the distribution or cultivation of cannabis, leaving qualified patients with no legal means to access it.
For these reasons, groups including the National Council of State Legislature and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) don’t consider Louisiana a legal medical marijuana state, as there is currently no workable medical marijuana program. Patients don’t have legal access to the compassionate care they desperately require.
However, to create a functional medical marijuana law, there would need to be an amendment adding legal protections for pharmacies dispensing medical cannabis, single cultivators and their staff. Such amendments are currently being considered in the House.
As Louisiana is still in the process of establishing laws that will ultimately create a usable medical marijuana program, please be sure to visit our site frequently for up-to-date amendments and law changes, as they pertain to the Louisiana medical marijuana program.
Until meaningful changes take place, patients meeting Louisiana medical marijuana qualifications will be handcuffed by a largely symbolic program. For example, people who attempt to either grow or distribute medical marijuana do so at the risk of being charged with a felony and having to spend anywhere from five to 90 years in jail — if convicted of distributing weed to a minor.
A bill was introduced during the 2017 legislative session, though, that would protect people who use medicinal marijuana as well as those “engaged with the (marijuana) industry” from prosecution. The bill would also somewhat correct a glaring omission regarding previous medical marijuana legislation. As the law is currently written, medical marijuana patients are protected from prosecution for possessing medicinal cannabis, but they can still be arrested.
The fate of the bill had not been determined as of this writing.
Patients in Louisiana diagnosed with one of the following severe, debilitating or life-threatening medical conditions, are afforded legal protection under the Louisiana Medical Marijuana law:
Patients with these qualifying conditions will be able to consume medical marijuana in the form of oils, pills, topical applications, and sprays. However, forms of medical marijuana that must be smoked are prohibited.
Not only is the Louisiana medical marijuana program largely unworkable, but it hasn’t been put into action yet, either. For example, legislators hadn’t decided as of this writing whether Louisiana State University or Southern University would be designated as the only legal cultivation facility.
Even though patients meeting medical marijuana qualifications in Louisiana remain frustrated by a lack of access to this therapeutic form of medicine, there are areas of the state that have made progress when it comes to decriminalizing weed. New Orleans is one such example.
In March 2016, the New Orleans City Council approved an ordinance that would make possession of a small amount of pot punishable by a fine of between $40-$100 instead of an arrest. Local law enforcement officials are now able to use discretion and fine someone rather than automatically sending them to jail.
At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we hope that patients meeting Louisiana medical marijuana qualifications will one day be able to take advantage of a truly workable medicinal cannabis program. Seeing how most Louisianans favor allowing medical marijuana — 79%, according to a Louisiana State University poll conducted in 2014 — it would seem obvious that the establishment of a sensible program will come in time.
In March 2018, a Baton Rouge Representative expressed interest in proposing a bill that would legalize and tax recreational cannabis. Penalties for cannabis have already been reduced in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and some legislators in the state feel that legalization is the next logical step.
We’ll continue to keep you updated as developments warrant regarding this issue.