Update: In December 2017, it was announced that six doctors had applied for permission to recommend and dispense medical marijuana. Three applications have been approved and no applications have been denied. The medical marijuana program is expected to be functional in summer of 2018.
In 2015, the Louisiana state legislature passed a law with the intention of legalizing medical marijuana, however, the bill failed as a result of the language permitting physicians, to “prescribe” marijuana.
However, on March 13, 2016, Senate Bill 271 — signed by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, on May 19, 2016 — was introduced to amend the failed 2015 literature, amending “prescribe” to correctly read “recommend”, which physicians may legally do:
“Prior law provides for medical marijuana to be prescribed. New law changes prescribed to recommended.”
Senate Bill 271 effectively gives physicians the legal ability to “recommend” medical marijuana to patients diagnosed with cancer; HIV/AIDS; glaucoma; cachexia or wasting syndrome; seizure disorders, including epilepsy; muscular dystrophy; Crohn’s disease; multiple sclerosis; spasticity, including severe muscle spasms.
Unfortunately, however, the bill does not provide legal protections from prosecution, for patients, growers, or distributors. Essentially the law allows for the lawful possession of medical marijuana, by a qualified patient; however, the bill contains no rhetoric addressing the distribution or cultivation, of cannabis, leaving qualified patients with no legal means to access it. Additionally, the bill stipulates that physicians are required to specify a dosage amount along with the recommendation, however, this ultimately puts the physician at risk of, again, violating federal drug laws.
As such, neither the National Council of State Legislature nor the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), technically classify Louisiana, as currently having a legal medical marijuana program.
In addition, Senate Bill 180, was introduced on March 14, 2016, “providing exemption from prosecution for anyone lawfully in possession of medical marijuana — signed by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, on June 02, 2016 — however, this bill too, lacked the provisions necessary to protect the individuals responsible, for the cultivation and dispensation, of medical marijuana. And while it offers protection for patients whose doctors recommend medical cannabis, it too, requires that physicians must specify the patient’s dosage, along with their recommendation — ultimately violating federal laws. As such the National Council of State Legislature and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), continue to exclude Louisiana, from the list of U.S. States with legal medical marijuana programs.
While these bills bring Louisiana one step closer to creating a workable medical marijuana law, and ultimately bringing compassionate care to those in desperate need, there would need to be a further amendment, adding legal protections for pharmacies dispensing medical cannabis, the single cultivator, and their staff — however, such amendments are currently being considered in the House.
Since Louisiana is still in the process of establishing laws, that will provide the structure needed to assemble and operate, a usable medical marijuana program, please be sure to visit our site frequently, for up-to-date amendments and law changes, as pertaining to the Louisiana medical marijuana program.
In March 2018, Baton Rouge Representative Edmond Jordan announced interest in introducing a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis. Representative Jordan mentioned that legalization would allow the state to also tax the sale of cannabis, which could generate a lot of revenue for the state of Louisiana. Previously, Baton Rouge and New Orleans have reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis, and Representative Jordan believes this is the next step for the state of Louisiana.
Louisiana legislature does provide for the legal possession of cannabis by a qualified patient, but it does not currently contain provisions, addressing the distribution or cultivation of cannabis, And, although such amendments are currently being considered in the House, the state has yet to pass legislature providing legal protection to the pharmacies dispensing medical cannabis, the single cultivators, or their staff, ultimately leaving qualified patients with no legal access, to medical cannabis.
The state law, furthermore, prohibits the inhalation and vaping of cannabis and maintains a ban on the plant as a whole — additionally, all marijuana cultivated must be grown with the “lowest acceptable levels of THC, available through scientifically accepted methods”.
The Louisiana State University, and Southern University, have been offered the license for the state’s marijuana production facility — the universities have until September 01, 2016, to exercise their “right of first refusal”. Should the universities pass on the opportunity to be the sole cultivators of cannabis, for the State, the private sector will then be allowed to apply for independent licenses, to cultivate medical marijuana.