Dozens of new bills in Louisiana seek to expand legal access marijuana, including three bills that would grant full legalization status.
If passed, House Bill 462 would create a state amendment that allows municipal governments to hold local elections that aht would decide whether sale, possession, distribution and use of marijuana should be permitted in their jurisdictions. In order to pass a constitutional amendment, the bill requires approval of two-thirds of the members of the state House and Senate and a majority of voters.
House Bill 509 seeks to legalize recreational marijuana consumption by adults 21 and over statewide. If passed, the bill will require the Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) and the state Board of Pharmacy to license and regulate manufacturers and retail distributors. Tax revenue from sales would go to public schools.
House Bill 564 authorizes the LDAF to create and issue licenses for cannabis production facilities. The bill also authorizes Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control to issue cannabis retail permits. If private citizens want to cultivate cannabis on their own property, the bill requires households to get a permit.
The state of Louisiana currently permits marijuana products for medical use but smoke-able pot is not allowed.
During his weekly call-in radio show, Governor John Bel Edwards is frequently asked about legalization of marijuana and has repeatedly stated he does not support the policy.
A recent poll conducted by researchers at Louisiana State University found that about 55% of state voters support legalization of small amounts of recreational marijuana.
According to their research the policy is supported by 80% of people age 18-29, 67% of 30-49 years olds, 50% of people age 50-64, and 31% of people age 65 and older.
Meanwhile, there are still numerous other marijuana related bills currently circulating in Baton Rouge.
House Bill 59: Removes the possibility of imprisonment for first-offense possession of 14 grams or less. Reduces potential fine from possessing more than 14 grams but less than 28 grams to $300 from $500 but maintains a possible six-month sentence.
House Bill 138: Amends the definition of “marijuana” to exclude hemp, while adding certain other drugs such as Methoxyacetyl fentanyl (an opioid) to the list of controlled dangerous substances. Hemp is a plant that is related to, but distinct from, marijuana, and is not psychoactive. Hemp can be used in food, clothing, paper and other products.
House Bill 169: Seeks to create a database of health outcomes associated with medical marijuana.
House Bill 358: Deletes the prohibition of inhaled medical marijuana.
House Bill 507: Imposes a 7 percent tax at the wholesale level on medical marijuana and dedicates the money to the New Opportunities Waiver Fund, which provides home- and community-based services for people with disabilities through the Medicaid program.
House Bill 605: Excludes marijuana for therapeutic use from state and local sales and use tax, as doctor-prescribed drugs already are. Technically, medical marijuana products remain illegal to prescribe, though doctors can recommend them to patients.
House Bill 560: Imposes a 15 percent tax on retail sales of hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products, with proceeds dedicated to the New Opportunities Waiver Fund. CBD is not psychoactive and is purported to have health benefits.
House Bill 568: Transfers oversight of therapeutic cannabis from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to the Louisiana Department of Health. Critics have blamed LDAF for delays in rolling out the state’s medical marijuana program, though the department has pointed to the need to ensure the legislature’s mandates are being followed.
House Bill 579: Authorizes hemp farming under the oversight of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain expects between 250 and 1,000 Louisiana residents will sign up to become approved growers if the state and federal governments provide a legal framework.
Senate Bill 61: Creates the Louisiana Commission on Medicinal Plants within the Department of Agriculture and Forestry to advise the department on medicinal plant regulation.
Louisiana could become the first state in the South with legal access to recreational marijuana.
A man smokes marijuana during the annual 4/20 rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on April 20, 2019. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)