Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two bills recently that redefine some of the state’s current rules and regulations concerning marijuana in the biggest move for the industry in the state since medical marijuana first became legal back in 1991.
The first bill, known as SB 143, will make Louisiana the first Southern state to allow patients suffering from a variety of ailments and medical conditions to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, and is intended to help create guidelines for medical cannabis distribution within state lines. Despite legalizing medical marijuana 24 years ago, the state has yet to establish regulations for how the plant should be cultivated, prescribed or dispensed.
The second of the two bills, HB 149, reduces the penalties assessed on those found in possession of marijuana within the state. Prior to its passage, those found guilty of a second offense of marijuana possession would face a felony conviction.
Under HB 149, second-time offenders will face only a misdemeanor conviction. Additionally, first-time offenders can now have their convictions removed from their records if they do not reoffend within a period of two years from the date of the initial infraction.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
While Jindal’s signature did not come as a surprise – he has been vocal about his support of both bills in the past – he signed without sending a press release or otherwise sharing details of his decision to do so.
Part of the reason for this may be because some opponents to the legislation have since stopped efforts to halt it. The Louisiana Association of Sheriffs, a primary opponent in years past, did not attempt to block the legislation this time around.
This is likely due in part to the fact that Sen. J.P. Morrell was quite vocal about getting Louisiana’s marijuana possession penalties more in line with those assessed by other Southern states. Other legislators feared that felony convictions for marijuana possession could have lifelong consequences for young offenders.
While progress was made with the recent signings, there are still several key decisions to be made. One involves how the plant will be cultivated within state lines given a modification of the bill that allows for cannabis use exclusively in its oil form.
While Louisiana State University has expressed willingness to cultivate cannabis in plant form, it remains to be determined how the plant would then be processed into cannabis oil.