Louisiana’s HB 243 and HB 637: Legislation to Equitably Legalize Cannabis for Adults
Louisiana’s HB 243 and HB 637, sponsored by Rep. Candace Newell (D-New Orleans), would legalize and regulate cannabis, with a focus on social equity. Here are some key features of the bills.
Personal Cultivation and Possession
Contingent on the passage of legislation to regulate and tax cannabis, HB 243 would legalize possession and distribution of cannabis.
Only one ounce can be sold to an individual per day.
Employers could continue enforcing or adopting reasonable zero tolerance policies or drug-free workplace policies, including drug testing. Employees could be disciplined or fired for violating the policies, as long as the policies are nondiscriminatory.
HB 243 would not prevent any school policy from being enforced, nor would it prevent drug-free zones.
Cannabis Business Licensing
The Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control would issue a total of 40 retailer permits, with no more than five permits per geographic area. More could be issued “if the market demands and requests necessitate such an increase.”
The Department of Agriculture and Forestry would issue no more than 10 processors. Processors would both grow cannabis and produce cannabis products.
Licenses would be distributed geographically, with preference given to applicants living in an area with a disproportionately high number of nonviolent marijuana arrests and convictions. Licensing will favor those who have been residents for five years or more.
Regulations will include security requirements, labeling and packaging requirements, sampling and testing procedures, and health and safety requirements, including related to extractions and pesticides. Seed-to-sale tracking is mandatory.
The state would handle lab testing.
In addition, the bill provides several specific restrictions:
Retailers and processors could not be located in “drug-free zone.”
All staff, and everyone entering a cannabis business, must be at least 21.
Retail sales cannot be conducted on the internet.
Cannabis retailers could not sell anything other than cannabis.
Application fees may not exceed $1,000.
Licensing fees: Initial fees for both retailers and producers may not exceed $100,000. (However, the department may reduce the fee if the population distribution is limited.) Renewals are $50,000 per year.
There does not appear to be a marijuana-specific tax or specific allocation of revenue. Standard sales taxes of 4.45% would apply, as would municipal taxes.