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Louisiana Expands State Medical Marijuana Program

Louisiana Expands State Medical Marijuana Program

New laws expanding the medical marijuana program in Louisiana went into effect on August 1. The state’s medical marijuana program has been criticized for being too limited and too restrictive since the program was established in 2016, but the three laws that went into effect on Saturday aim to improve the situation.

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program may have been established three years ago, but patients were not granted access to medicine until August of 2019 when the first round of the product became available. Home cultivation remains illegal for the more than 4,000 registered medical marijuana patients. Only two facilities are allowed to cultivate medical cannabis for the entire state, and only nine pharmacies are licensed to distribute it to patients.

House Bill 819

Previously, the number of physicians that were allowed to recommend medical marijuana therapy was limited and so were the conditions that would qualify a person for the program. Under the new regulations established by HB 819, any physician licensed by the state of Louisiana has the authority to recommend medical cannabis to his or her patients. Previously, only physicians registered with the program were permitted to discuss it with patients. As a result, the program struggled to recruit physicians to participate.

This legislation also expands conditions which qualify a person to apply for the program and puts more emphasis on the patient-physician relationship by opening the program’s door to any person suffering from “any condition” which is deemed to be debilitating by the physician. Under the prior regulations, only patients suffering from a certain list of conditions, like cancer, epilepsy, or HIV, could qualify for the medical marijuana program.

House Bill 418

Even though more than half of the states in America have legalized some form of cannabis use, whether medical or recreational, the plant and its derivatives remain federally illegal. House Bill 418 aims to provide extra protection for those businesses that operate within the parameters of Louisiana state law. This legislation certifies that: “Any facility that is licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health and has patients in its care using medical marijuana shall be exempt from the prohibitions provided in this Section for possession and distribution of marijuana.”

House Bill 211

House Bill 211 addresses another major restriction placed on state-legal cannabis businesses by the federal government. While cannabis remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, businesses licensed by the federal government, like those that provide banking services, are not able to work with any cannabis-related company without fear of federal prosecution.

Unlike federal regulations, the enactment of House Bill 211 is meant to motivate financial institutions to service those cannabis-related businesses that are licensed and operating legally in the state of Louisiana.

This legislation sets the expectation that the state will not: “Penalize a state bank or credit union for providing financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider solely because the account holder is a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider or is an employee, owner, or operator of a cannabis-related legitimate business or service provider.”

Federal Law: SAFE Banking Act

Many proponents think that federal lawmakers should take a page out of Louisiana’s playbook regarding the relationship between financial institutions and legitimate cannabis businesses. As long as cannabis remains illegal under federal law, banks that choose to work with cannabis industry businesses are at risk even though those businesses are operating legally under state law.

The United States Congress is currently considering legislation known as the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act) which would effectively lift the restrictions preventing banks and insurance service providers from openly working with cannabis businesses.

The House has already approved the SAFE Banking Act, and the legislation is currently being held up by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Some Senators may need encouragement from you, the constituents, to support the SAFE Banking Act. NORML has made it incredibly easy to contact your state’s Senators to let them know that you want them to approve the SAFE Banking Act. Click here to be redirected to NORML’s website where all you have to do is enter your information and it will automatically send your letter of support.

Medical Marijuana Laws On Trial in Canada

Medical Marijuana Laws On Trial in Canada

Canada’s ambiguous laws concerning medical marijuana may be overhauled for good in the coming months. Later this year, justices on the Canadian Supreme Court are expected to reach a decision regarding the legality of consumable products derived from marijuana — including edibles and oils.

The case began in 2009 when former head baker of the Cannabis Buyer’s Club of Canada, Owen Edward Smith, was charged for possessing baked goods and oils which contained tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to section 55(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), only dried marijuana can be obtained for medicinal purposes—edibles and extracts are not covered under this section and are therefore illegal.

Despite being acquitted of his charges, Smith had to argue for his freedom once more, only this time in front of Canada’s Supreme Court. In fact, the ruling from British Columbia’s highest court not only acquitted him, but it also ordered the government to change its laws pertaining to cannabis extracts. Instead of taking the sensible ruling of Smith’s home province to heart, the Canadian Crown has decided to try its own hand at convicting the baker as a drug dealer.

Kirk Tousaw, who represents Smith in front of the Supreme Court, argues that the law is not only arbitrary, but it also makes it possible for medical marijuana patients to be unfairly victimized by the legal system. The focal point of his argument was to clear up the current ambiguities in Canada’s medical marijuana laws so that law-abiding citizens are not suddenly cast as criminals without their knowledge.

“As long as she keeps the strainer in the water and drinks the tea with the dried marijuana, she’s not breaking the law,”

Tousaw said, referring to a critically ill trial witness.

“But the minute she takes the tea strainer out of the cup, she’s now holding and possessing THC, which is not lawful.”

Representing the Crown as the prosecutor in this case is Paul Riley, who had hoped to steer things in a completely different direction. Instead of arguing for a need to clear up the legal ambiguities pertaining to dried marijuana and consumable extracts, Riley put the onus on medical users to follow the law as written. He claimed that those who sought legal exemption for extracts would rather choose an illegal form of cannabis consumption instead of the government-approved options. Moreover, in what would appear to be an act of desperation, Riley asked the court to exercise “judicial deference” by stepping down and allowing the government to figure things out.

Fortunately, that did not happen—and the justices were not thrilled with Riley’s arguments, to boot. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin told the prosecutor during the hearing:

“Confine your points to things that really matter.”

In the end, it’s hard to say what the high court’s decision will be in the coming months. However, it seems that Smith’s attorney, unlike the Crown prosecutor, confined his case to sensible arguments that may serve to make things a bit easier for medical marijuana patients in Canada. One hopes that Canada’s Supreme Court justices see things the same way.

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