Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ pen had a good workout on Tuesday, with the signing of a bunch of bills from the 2022 Regular Legislative Session.
Among the 97 bills signed were at least 7 directly relating to cannabis, including:
- ACT 438—HB 135: Authorizes dispensing of medical marijuana to certain qualifying patients who are not Louisiana residents.
- ACT 439—HB 137: Provides relative to immunity from prosecution for medical marijuana.
- ACT 444—HB 190: Authorizes certain nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana to patients.
- ACT 473—HB 629: Provides relative to a search without a warrant of a person’s place of residence for the odor of marijuana.
- ACT 478—HB 234: Prohibits smoking or vaping marijuana in motor vehicles.
- ACT 491—HB 697: Reforms the state systems for regulating the production of marijuana for therapeutic use and for the dispensing of such product.
- ACT 492—HB 698: Provides for fees and charges to be assessed by the La. Department of Health in connection with regulation of marijuana for therapeutic use.
Louisiana is a “medical marijuana only” state and has two production facilities permitted to cultivate medical cannabis under Louisiana law; selected by LSU and Southern University agricultural centers. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is the state’s lead regulatory agency in overseeing licencing and production of therapeutic marijuana.
In order to access medical cannabis, Louisiana patients must have a doctor’s recommendation and a qualifying medical condition. There are more than a dozen specific qualifying conditions for the state’s program, but any other condition not otherwise specified a suitably qualified physician considers to be debilitating is eligible.
There are only nine distributing pharmacies across the entire state, from which patients can buy up to a 30-day supply of certain products. Originally only non-smokable preparations of marijuana were permitted, but then forms administered by metered-dose inhaler were subsequently allowed. “Raw or crude” cannabis for smoking was permitted starting on January 1, 2022. However, dispensaries are only allowed to dispense a maximum of 2.5 ounces to a patient every 14 days.
At the end of April 2022, there were approximately 29,000 patients registered in the state; a pretty low proportion of overall population compared to some other U.S. states where medicinal cannabis is legal. This is even though Louisiana first enacted therapeutic marijuana legislation way back in 1978. But as the state loosens up regulations, no doubt the number will continue growing.