The Louisiana medical marijuana industry took two major steps forward this past month. Two bills that died the previous year were passed by the State Senate. The sponsors of both bills attributed the passage of their bills to the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association whose opinion carries significant weight with legislators and their constituents.
In early May, the Louisiana State Senate passed a bill authorizing one grower and ten dispensaries across the state. The bill was sponsored by Republican State Senator Fred Mills and limits the use of medical marijuana to patients who suffer from glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and for those undergoing chemotherapy.
On Tuesday, the Louisiana State Senate passed legislation which decriminalizes the possession of marijuana. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator J.P. Morrell who wants to bring Louisiana’s marijuana laws closer in line with other states.
Second attempt by both Senators
Last year, Senator Mills submitted a similar bill which died in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after he faced significant opposition from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and Louisiana’s District Attorney’s Association. Those groups were concerned that the enactment of such legislation could lead to widespread illegal use of marijuana for personal pleasure.
Senator Morrell attributed passage of the bill to the support received from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana District Attorney Association. Last year, dozens of sheriffs appeared at a Senate committee hearing last year to show their opposition to his bill, which sought similar statutory changes. Morrell’s bill died in that committee in 2014 after more than three hours of debate on the measure.
Yesterday, a House committee approved the bill sponsored by Senator Mills which would give state boards authority to create and regulate a system for growing, prescribing and dispensing medical marijuana for patients who need it.
For the bill to pass, the entire House of Representatives must pass the bill and the Senate must sign-off on new amendments to the bill. After that, the bill will be sent to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s desk for a signature.
In April, Governor Jindal stated that he is open to legislation that legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries as long as the industry is tightly regulated. The legislation submitted by Senator Morrell is expected to save the state around $17 million over a five years period.