Louisiana is now the first state in the Deep South to allow full medical marijuana – at least on paper.
Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is running for president, signed legislation in late June that eases penalties on cannabis possession. It also revives the state’s decades-old MMJ program, which never got off the ground.
Sadly, the new medicinal cannabis law may not take effect for a while. The state plans to impose some of the toughest regulations in the country, if not the toughest, and it could be a long time before they hash out the rules, license providers, and make the drug available to patients.
SB 143, which started in the state Senate before passing the House and winning Jindal’s signature, makes Louisiana unique as a Southern state that has adopted “whole plant” medical marijuana. This approach allows patient to use any part of the plant as treatment, including the intoxicating chemical THC.
12 states allow limited CBD oil
More than a dozen states, mostly in the South, permit only a non-intoxicating form of cannabis known as CBD oil, and then only for patients with severe seizure disorders. Whole plant MMJ applies to a much wider range of patients and health conditions.
39 states now allow some form of medical cannabis. Fifteen of them have adopted CBD-only laws, including Texas and Oklahoma, which legalized the substance earlier this year. The other states allow whole plant medication, including the four that also have legal recreational marijuana: Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington.
Louisiana had medical marijuana law since 90s
Louisiana has had a medical marijuana law on its books for many years. The program was designed during the early 1990s, when the idea of MMJ was first gaining legs. But it never stood much chance of success, as officials made it impossible to register or buy medicine. For that reason, the system was never officially counted as real MMJ.
Jindal signed another bill in late June, this one loosening criminal penalties on marijuana offenders, especially those with only small-time offenses on their records. Cannabis remains strictly illegal in the state, and the changes won’t decriminalize or legalize the drug in any way.
Florida was the first Southern state to make a realistic attempt at passing medical marijuana. That effort failed because it didn’t reach the 60 percent public vote required, but it did surpass 50 percent, suggesting success is likely in the future.
It’s somewhat ironic that Louisiana beat Florida to the punch, at least in theory. Floridians will likely have practical access to MMJ much sooner than Louisianans, even with the head start. Still, the new laws out of Baton Rouge will open the door to future cannabis sales.