The Louisiana House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill that would expand the state’s current limited medical marijuana program by allowing patients to purchase whole-flower cannabis. They also advanced another proposal that would establish licensing fees for for recreational marijuana if the state opts to legalize it under separate legislation.
Members additionally gave the green light to a measure that’s meant to align Louisiana’s hemp program with the federal rules for the crop that were finalized and took effect under the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month.
Lawmakers in the state have been advancing a series of marijuana reform bills in recent weeks. But arguably the most consequential measure is one from Rep. Richard Nelson (R) that would establish a recreational cannabis market in the state.
That legislation was approved by the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee last week and is expected to come to the floor for consideration later this week.
The companion licensing proposal, which is also being sponsored by Nelson, passed the House on second reading on Monday without debate. It would establish a $2,500 annual fee for cannabis business licenses and a $100 annual fee for a personal cultivation permit.
Additionally, it would stipulate that, if the state takes in more dollars from those fees than it needs to cover administrative costs, those excess funds would go to individual municipalities and law enforcement.
The chamber gave final passage on Monday to legislation that would allow medical marijuana patients in Louisiana to access raw cannabis flower. After being approved on a 73-26 vote, the bill, which is sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee (R), now heads to the Senate.
“One of the reasons why we’re doing this is because the opioid crisis has been so costly to the people of our state,” Magee said prior to the vote. “It’s been so costly to them. This is a better version. If you’re on hydrocodone, yeah, it treats your pain, but it’s highly addictive. It has lots of side effects that we don’t like.”
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The bill would amend the state’s existing medical cannabis law to make it so physicians may recommend raw marijuana products intended for inhalation. Dispensaries could sell up to two and a half ounces of flower cannabis to each patient in a 14-day period.
Last year, the legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.
While advocates generally expect resistance from the governor, who has repeatedly expressed opposition to adult-use legalization, he did say last week that he has “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.
“As I almost always do, I will take a look at the bill as it arrives on my desk and see what it contains and what amendments have been added to it,” the governor said. “I’m not going to speculate now on that, but I do have great interest in that bill and what it says, especially if it does make it up to the fourth floor. I’ll take a look at it at that point and then make sure that you all know exactly how I feel about it.”
As state lawmakers have continued to advance these marijuana reform bills, two new polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—show that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.
A bill to establish taxes for flower marijuana products for patients, which passed the House last month, was initially scheduled for consideration by a Senate panel on Monday, but it’s been pushed back until next week.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.