The Louisiana Legislature has passed a new law, House Bill 473, which will legalize smoking medical marijuana in Louisiana. The law was signed by Governor John Bel Edwards and will take effect January 1st.
The publication of the results of the first clinical trials testing the safety and effectiveness of smokable marijuana has been announced by the Louisiana State Department of Health. This is the first time that cannabis has been approved for use as a medical remedy in the United States.
Under a new state law, medical marijuana patients in Louisiana can now purchase a smokeable, bloomable form of the drug.
Governor John Bel Edwards recently signed Act 391 into law. It passed the House of Representatives earlier this month by a 75-18 vote and the Senate in late May by a 23-14 vote.
The measure allows licensed patients to purchase 2.5 ounces of marijuana leaf every two weeks from one of nine medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. Previously, patients could only get non-smokable forms of the drug, such as gum, ointments and inhalers.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2011. 2022, and the state’s two licensed medical marijuana producers have said they will offer smoking marijuana for sale on that date.
Louisiana lawmakers approved the medical marijuana program in 2015, and the products became available to patients in 2019.
Proponents of the bill said the state should relax its restrictions or face the end of developing the industry in the state, as neighboring states, such as Arkansas, have begun allowing smokable medical marijuana.
Two state-licensed manufacturers say it is less expensive to produce the smoke form because fewer processing steps are required.
Lawmakers rejected an amendment to the bill that would have added a third licensed manufacturer, but said they would consider expanding the number of licensed manufacturers and pharmacies next year.
Several lawmakers, some of whom are considered very conservative Republicans, told their colleagues that they have friends and family members who have been helped by the use of medical marijuana, especially those battling cancer and dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy.
Edwards also signed Bill 652, which decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes. The bill, which passed by a 25-17 vote in the Senate and 68-25 vote in the House, goes into effect on January 1. August in operation.
Under the new law, people caught with half an ounce of marijuana purchased without a medical card will be fined $100 instead of a possible jail sentence.
Some 27 other states have taken similar steps to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and 19 states have fully legalized marijuana.