Louisiana medical marijuana program still not functioning
Last update: March 1, 2019
Despite improvements to Louisiana’s medical marijuana law each year since 2015, patients still do not have access to medical marijuana. Louisiana State University and Southern University are the only authorized cultivators and do not have marijuana available for patients yet. In addition to the two cultivators, there will only be nine dispensing pharmacies throughout the state.
The lack of independent testing is one of the biggest hurdles the program is facing. The state put out an RFP for laboratories to test medical marijuana but did not award any contracts and said none of the labs were qualified. The state then decided to test medical marijuana itself. It is now facing a lawsuit from a rejected applicant.
Medical marijuana is expected to be available for patients by May, but the way things have been going, it could be longer. These delays are hurting Louisiana patients the most, who should have access to their legal medicine by now.
MPP does not count Louisiana as a medical marijuana state because its limited law does not allow patients to vaporize (or smoke) cannabis. Unlike the 32 states with effective medical marijuana laws, patients will only be allowed to use non-inhaled modes of administration.
New Orleans City Council unanimously passes ordinance decriminalizing marijuana
On March 17, 2016, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a sensible new ordinance to decriminalize marijuana possession in the city. On March 23, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed it into law. It went into effect on June 21, 2016.
The city council unanimously approved Ordinance 31,148, which allows law enforcement to issue a ticket — rather than arresting — for marijuana possession. It also 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.