Louisiana is one of those states in the U.S where marijuana is not highly accepted as a welcoming culture. Just like other conservative states, marijuana has been illegal for a long time in Louisiana. But of late, changes have taken place.
The governor of Louisiana recently signed into law the first marijuana bill in the state. It came as a result of the approval of the bill (62-31) by the Louisiana House of Representatives.
With this, medical marijuana became officially legalized in the state, making Louisiana the 25th state in the US and the first state in the South to practically implement a workable marijuana law.
This came as quite a relief for many patients in Louisiana who have been suffering from serious medical conditions that otherwise could not be treated in the absence of access to medical marijuana. However, the law has not become operational as yet, as the law was passed very recently. The move is widely being hoped to be a step closer to the complete legalization of marijuana.
Unfortunately, recreational marijuana still remains to be illegal in the state.
Back in 2015, efforts were implemented to legalize medical marijuana, although they failed because of a similar language issue as was the case with the Arizona medical marijuana legalization. The bill is said to have wrongly referenced the word “prescribe” in place of the word “recommend” in the context of action taken by the consultant physician on certifying a patient to have one of the prescribed medical conditions for use of marijuana.
Medical Marijuana for Patients
Later Senate Bill 271 was signed in 2016 that effectively amended the previously failed bill to correctly read “recommend.” This gave physicians the right to recommend medical marijuana for patients diagnosed with any of the prescribed debilitating medical conditions.
The bill however did not give cultivators or distributers legal protection. Interestingly, the bill only addressed the use and possession of medical marijuana by qualifying patients and it did not address the cultivation or distribution.
In the same year, Senate Bill 180 was signed that provided exemption from being prosecuted for anyone in legal possession of medical marijuana. But it failed to protect the people who were responsible for its cultivation and distribution. For all these reasons, the legalization of medical marijuana took quite a while.
From a medical perspective as well, Louisiana considers marijuana to be a Schedule I (C) hallucinogenic substance. For the same reason, the clauses applicable on the use of medical marijuana are very stringent.
According to Louisiana medical marijuana laws, inhalation or vaping of marijuana for non-medical purposes is strictly prohibited. Also, all kinds of cultivated marijuana are required to be at the lowest levels of THC.
As per the Louisiana medical marijuana laws, the following are some of the debilitating medical conditions, patient diagnosed with will qualify to use medical marijuana for treatment:
- Crohn’s disease
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Muscular dystrophy
- Seizure disorders or spasticity
- Multiple sclerosis
These are the prescribed medical conditions that qualify for the use of medical marijuana, although it is not operational yet.
The qualifying patient is only allowed to purchase the required amount of marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary in Louisiana, although none of them are operational yet. Once they do become operational, they are anticipated to sell many different strains and varieties of marijuana from Indica to Sativa to even hybrids. There are possession limits for the patient too, being a 30 day supply of non-smoking forms or preparations of marijuana.
Coming to cultivation, it is considered illegal to privately cultivate marijuana for anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a qualifying patient or physician. In fact, there will only be one state-licensed supply source for medical marijuana in Louisiana and it is most likely to be the Louisiana State University and/or Southern University.
Once the medical marijuana law in the state of Louisiana becomes functional, there are anticipated to be limits on the number of marijuana dispensary permits in the state; there are not going to be more than 10 permits active at the same time.
Louisiana state also seeks to implement a mandatorily equal distribution of marijuana, geographically. For the same reason, the state board has determined nine regions as recognized by the Department of Health in which to assign medical marijuana pharmacies one in each of them. These regions are Capitol, Acadian, Northeast, Northwest, Teche, CENLA, Florida Parishes and New Orleans Metro.
There are also currently 8 state-recognized physicians who have been authorized to recommend medical marijuana in Louisiana.
Hence, as is evident from the preparations, once the law comes into operation, the necessary resources and infrastructure would be already in place to ensure the smooth operation and functioning of the Louisiana medical marijuana program.