After 2015 efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Louisiana failed — failing as a result of its language, the bill incorrectly referenced the word “prescribe,” instead of “recommend”, when referring to the consulting physician’s appropriate action upon certifying a patient, for medical cannabis — the Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, signed Senate Bill 271, on May 19, 2016, ultimately amending the failed 2015 literature, to correctly read “recommend,” which physicians are legally allowed to do. “Prior law provides for medical marijuana to be prescribed. New law changes prescribed to recommended.”
As per the legislature of Senate Bill 271, Louisiana physicians have the legal capacity to “recommend” medical marijuana, to patients diagnosed with one of the following debilitating medical conditions: cancer; HIV/AIDS; glaucoma; cachexia or wasting syndrome; seizure disorders, including epilepsy; Crohn’s disease; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; spasticity, including severe muscle spasms.
Senate Bill 271, does not, however, provide patients, growers, or distributors, legal protection from prosecution. The Louisiana law allows for the lawful possession of medical marijuana, by a qualified patient, but altogether failed to address the distribution or cultivation, of cannabis, leaving qualified patients with no legal access to medical cannabis, despite its legalization. Additionally, the bill contains language that if followed would result in the violation of federal drug laws, by the physicians — the bill stipulates that physicians are required to specify a dosage amount along with the recommendation, ultimately placing the physician, again at risk, of breaking federal laws.
Additionally, Senate Bill 180, was signed by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, on June 02, 2016 — “providing exemption from prosecution for anyone lawfully in possession of medical marijuana.” Unfortunately, while the Louisiana legislature offers protections for patients whose doctors recommend medical cannabis, it lacked the necessary faculties to protect those individuals responsible, for cultivating and dispensing the medical marijuana.
As a result of these oversights and omissions, Louisiana is not considered to have a legal medical marijuana program, by either the National Council of State Legislature or the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), as it does not provide qualified patients with the legal means to access the cannabis, they require.
In order to include legal protections for medical cannabis dispensaries, cannabis cultivators, and their staff, Louisiana’s legislature would require further amendment. However, such amendments are currently being considered in the House.
Furthermore, the law prohibits the inhalation and vaping of cannabis, and maintains a strict ban on the cannabis plant as a whole — additionally, all cultivated cannabis must be grown with the “lowest acceptable levels of THC, available through scientifically accepted methods.”
At this time, the State is waiting to see whether or not, the Louisiana State University, and Southern University, will accept the license for the state’s marijuana production facility, or exercise their “right of first refusal,” at which point, the private sector would then be allowed to apply for independent licenses, to cultivate the State’s medical marijuana.