Governor John Bel Edwards affixed his signature to eight bills passed by Louisiana’s legislature on Monday, incrementally trending toward legalization of marijuana. In keeping with the evolutionary process, six of those bills (which became ACTS with the gubernatorial signature) focused exclusively on medical marijuana regulation, which means two are laws of general application.
ACT 473 (House Bill 629) is new law, adding Art. 162.4. Search of a person’s place of residence; odor of marijuana to the Code of Criminal Procedure. It reads:
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the odor of marijuana alone shall not provide a law enforcement officer with probable cause to conduct a search without a warrant of a person’s place of residence.
Passed by the House by a 66-28 vote, the Senate 24-10, the only member of Ascension’s delegation to oppose ACT 473 was Representative Tony Bacala (37 years with Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office could explain the “NAY”).
ACT 478 (House Bill 234) adds a new offense to Title 32 (MOTOR VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC REGULATION) of Louisiana’s Revised Statutes. It reads:
It shall be unlawful for the operator or any passenger in a motor vehicle, while the motor vehicle is being operated on a public highway or right-of-way, to smoke or vape any form of marijuana as defined by R.S. 40:961, or a substance classified in Schedule I that is marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or chemical derivatives thereof.
“Considered a nonmoving violation, and a citation issued by a law enforcement officer for such violation shall not be included on the driver’s operating record;” the traffic offense comes with a $100 fine,” just like the traffic law for Possession of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles R.S. 32:300. And…
A law enforcement officer shall enforce the provisions of this Section only as a secondary action when the law enforcement officer detains a driver for another violation.
It is the same as R.S. 32:300, Possession of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles.
Final passage in the House was by a 67-30 vote, the Senate was unanimous. Representative Ken Brass was alone in opposition among Ascension’s delegation.
ACT 444 (House Bill 190) is one of six statutes tinkering with Louisiana’s medical marijuana scheme. It “revises present law to authorize licensed nurse practitioners who have prescriptive authority, in addition to licensed physicians, to recommend medical marijuana to patients.” (Legislative Digest).
Additionally, “Any medical psychologist licensed by and in good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to practice medical psychology in this state” is also deemed “an authorized clinician” who may “recommend” marijuana to treat a broad spectrum of maladies enumerated in Louisiana Revised Statute 40:1046. Medicinal marijuana may also be recommended for…
Any condition not otherwise specified in this Subparagraph that an authorized clinician, in his medical opinion, considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his medical education and training to treat.
Passed 58-39 by the House, Ascension Representatives Tony Bacala and Kathy Edmonston were in the minority. 21-9 was the Senate margin.
ACT 499 (House Bill 775) amends the definition of “drug paraphernalia” in R.S. 40:1021 to exclude:
“…any equipment or devices solely used or intended for use for the inhalation of raw or crude marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols, or a chemical derivative of tetrahydrocannabinols when the person is a patient of a state-sponsored medical marijuana program and possesses medical marijuana in a form permissible under R.S. 40:1046 for therapeutic use.”
Drug paraphernalia still includes such items as “blenders, bowls, containers, spoons, and mixing devices…capsules, balloons, envelopes, and other containers used, intended for use, or designed for use in packaging small quantities of controlled substances.”
The vote was 81-12 in the House, 26-6 in the Senate. Among Ascension’s delegation only Representative Edmonston opposed the bill.
ACT 491 (House Bill 697) “repeals the ten-license limit on marijuana pharmacy licenses provided in present law and provides for a system for increasing the number of licenses issued contingent upon increases in medical marijuana patient counts.” (Legislative Digest).
- Provides for selection of marijuana production contractors by licensed producers of medical marijuana and for oversight and regulation of such contractors.
- Provides requirements and standards for laboratories that conduct testing of medical marijuana.
- Transfers duties for licensure and regulation of medical marijuana production facilities from the La. Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to the La. Dept. of Health (LDH).
- Provides for the following system for incrementally increasing the number of marijuana pharmacy licenses issued by the board:
After 2,500 active, qualified patients are identified in the prescription monitoring program in a region, the board may allow the marijuana pharmacy licensee in that region to open one additional marijuana pharmacy location in that region. Requires the board to license the additional location within three months of the date on which the patient registration threshold is met.
The votes were 77-16 (House), 22-12 (Senate) with Representative Edmonston the only opponent from the Ascension delegation.
ACT 492 (House Bills 698) substitutes Louisiana Department of Health as the regulatory agency over medical marijuana production, in place of the Agriculture and Forestry; Louisiana Board of Pharmacy assumes oversight of dispensation from the State Board of Medical Examiner.
It retains an existing 7% fee, but adds an enumeration of those subject to the collection. New language includes, “The fee shall be reported and paid by the licensed production facility or permitted
contractor that sells therapeutic marijuana to marijuana pharmacies.”
The votes were 73-19 (House), 25-8 (Senate) with Representative Edmonston the only opponent from the Ascension delegation.
ACT 438 (House Bill 135) Authorizes dispensing of medical marijuana by Louisiana-licensed marijuana pharmacies to certain qualifying patients who are not Louisiana residents. Required verification by dispensaries are imposed.
The votes were 73-22 (House), 27-6 (Senate) with Representative Edmonston the only opponent from the Ascension delegation.
ACT 439 (House Bill 137), a companion to ACT 438, Provides that visiting qualifying patients shall be exempt from prosecution for certain violations of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
The votes were 67-25 (House), 26-7 (Senate) with Representative Edmonston the only opponent from the Ascension delegation. Representative Bacala was absent from the vote.
Public opinion is trending one way. A solid majority of Louisianans favor legalization of marijuana for recreational use, and that number is growing. That fact is beginning to be reflected in the legislature.
In our view marijuana should be regulated (and taxed) just like alcohol. The 2022 legislation is a step in that direction.