Medical cannabis access begins, is a "game changer" in Gov. Blanco's final days
Last update: October 3, 2019
After years of waiting, Louisiana medical marijuana sales finally started on August 6, 2019. Less than a month later, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s eldest child shared that medical marijuana was a “game changer” for Blanco. Blanco was near death when medical marijuana access became legal. Marijuana allowed Blanco to regain the ability to eat and hold conversations, allowing her to survive nearly two more weeks — long enough to celebrate her 55th wedding anniversary.
While medical cannabis is providing life-changing relief, unfortunately the state’s medical marijuana program is among the most restrictive in the nation. There are only two state-licensed cultivators — Louisiana State University and Southern University — and only LSU has harvested cannabis. In addition, the state has authorized only nine pharmacies* to dispense medical marijuana.
Here are the nine pharmacy locations:
- H&W Drug Store in New Orleans
- Capitol Wellness Solutions in Baton Rouge
- Green Leaf Dispensary in Houma
- The Apothecary Shoppe in Lafayette
- Medicis in Lake Charles
- The Medicine Cabinet Pharmacy in Alexandria
- Hope Pharmacy in Shreveport
- Delta Medmar in West Monroe
- Willow Pharmacy in Madisonville
(*While these retailers are licensed as pharmacies under Louisiana law, they are far closer to a dispensary than a standard pharmacy: Due to federal prohibition, they do not have a DEA registration that is required to sell most prescription drugs.)
In addition, Louisiana has restricted the forms of cannabis allowed — prohibiting whole plant (flower) and smoking. In spring 2019, lawmakers approved HB 358, which allows for vaporization of marijuana via a “metered-dose inhaler.” This is a step in the right direction, but ultimately, how a patient consumes marijuana should be a decision for them and their doctor — not the state. Many patients need the immediate relief smoking provides.
To qualify for medical marijuana, patients must have one of the following conditions: Autism spectrum disorders, cachexia/wasting syndrome, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seizure disorders/spasticity, and severe muscle spasms. Find out more about the program here.
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, and 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.
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.