Legislature appears poised to have a workable medical marijuana program
Last update: May 12, 2016
The Louisiana Legislature has attempted to protect patients who can benefit from medical cannabis at least three times dating back to 1978 — most recently last year. But thus far, those laws have proven merely symbolic and have failed to provide patients with relief. At long last, that appears to be about to change, thanks to Sen. Fred Mills’ SB 271 and SB 180.
Taken together, they would establish a workable but extremely limited medical marijuana program. SB 271 would change a provision relying on doctors “prescribing” marijuana (which is federally illegal) to “recommending” it (which is not) and would also expand qualifying conditions; SB 180 would ensure participating patients have legal protections. On May 11, 2016, the House passed SB 271 in a vote of 62-31; it now returns to the Senate for a concurrence. SB 180 has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the House.
Rep. Ted James’ bill HB 1112 — the Louisiana Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Act — would have established a comprehensive program and extended protections to intractable pain patients (who are not included in existing law or SB 271) while allowing a healthy number of manufacturers. However, that bill was indefinitely postponed in the House Health and Welfare Committee.
If you are a Louisianan, you can help ensure that Louisiana lawmakers make Louisiana’s medical marijuana law work by clicking here.
New Orleans City Council unanimously passes ordinance decriminalizing marijuana
On March 23, 2016, the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, signed into law a sensible new ordinance to decriminalize marijuana possession in the city. On March 17, the city council unanimously passed the ordinance. It will become effective on June 21, 2016.
Ordinance 31,148 will allow law enforcement to issue a ticket — rather than arresting — for marijuana possession and reduces penalties from possible jail time to a civil fine of $40 to $100 if the officer cites under local law instead of arresting under state law. For more details, please click here.
You can also ask your legislators to impose a civil fine — not possible jail time — statewide for simple possession of marijuana, or to legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults’ use.
Poll shows Louisiana voters support reform
The people of Louisiana are ready to rid their state of the overly harsh penalties currently imposed for marijuana offenses. A February 2014 LSU State Survey found 79% of Louisianans support allowing medical marijuana. These results are more than 10 points greater than an August 2013 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey that found 65% support for medical marijuana. The PPP poll also found that 56% of likely voters favor citing individuals for simple marijuana possession over arresting them, and 53% think the state should change its law “to allow marijuana to be regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, for legal use by adults age 21 and older.”
ACLU study shows Louisiana’s harsh marijuana laws result in racially disproportionate arrest rates
Louisiana has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. First-offense possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to six months in jail. Unfortunately, these laws disproportionately effect Louisiana’s African American community. A 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Louisiana are 3.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Please take a moment to send a letter to your legislators asking them to reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana to a civil fine or asking them to end marijuana prohibition entirely by legalizing marijuana and regulating it for adult use similarly to alcohol.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Louisiana, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.