Perhaps, the most discussed thing in Louisiana is the new marijuana law. Of course, it comes after Covid-19.
Recently, Louisiana did not follow its neighbor Arkansas and decriminalized the small amount of cannabis. Hence, people using less than 14 grams of cannabis will no longer go to prison. Instead, they will pay a $100 fine.
Moreover, prison is not a punishment even if you use that amount many times. You will pay $100 each time you are caught. The arrest is also not a punishment for using more than 14 grams of cannabis. If you use more than 14 grams, you will get a warning ticket.
This law is the big step to fully legalize cannabis for adult use. Maybe we will see it in nearest future. Anyways, recreational marijuana use remains illegal in Louisiana. Medical cannabis has been legal not so long, too. Louisiana legalized medical cannabis only in 1991.
The marijuana decriminalization law was in work from the start of August 2021. However, we can consider this more partial decriminalization. There are still fines applying.
Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the document. It was in June 2021. On the whole, it got a good response.
The reasons for “partial legalization” may vary. For example, many city/council members were for it. The same applies to those, who were from opposed parties.
Also, the criminalization of cannabis was very harmful to black and brown people. They violated cannabis laws 6 times more than white people. Thus, it might seriously affect a youngster’s life. Besides, there were many polls. They aim to collect opinions about the cannabis full legalization. One of the latest polls revealed that the majority is against legalization. Only less than 25% were completely against it.
As we see, the marijuana adult use is not far in Louisiana. And, perhaps, we will gather here soon. But this time to discuss recreational cannabis in the state. But for now, let’s discuss the medical use of cannabis.
Definitely, the new laws for adult-use cannabis would affect the medical one, too. Recently, the medical marijuana law has also been updated. The new law was signed by John Bel Edwards. However, the law will act only from the 1st day of 2022.
First of all, let’s discuss the current MMJ laws in Louisiana. There is still time till the updates work. Thus, you still need to follow the current laws.
MMJ is not available for every patient. Having a qualifying disease is a must. The conditions for MMJ include cancer, epilepsy, HIV, and so on. The qualifying doctor can recommend conditions, as well.
Accordingly, smoking marijuana is not allowed for patients. Till 2019 it was completely illegal to inhale cannabis. Then, cannabis vaporization became legal. But the special device was a must. The device is a metered-dose inhaler for medications.
Now, you can buy cannabis in many forms. They include pills, tinctures, gummies, and so on. But you can buy them only from licensed pharmacies. Besides, there are restrictions on the frequency of cannabis purchases. You should buy it once a month. Therefore, with one purchase you should provide your whole month’s supply. Moreover, the THC should not surpass 10mg.
Note: Qualified doctor determines the supply for a month. There are no sales taxes for cannabis products.
Lab testing is also mandatory. Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) approves of labs. They decide the present ingredients in cannabis, such as heavy metals, THC, and so on.
The governor signed the new updates earlier in 2021. However, you should wait till 2022 for updates.
Accordingly, smokable marijuana will no longer be banned. So, the patients can also buy crude cannabis to smoke. There will be additional sales taxes. It would be 4,5%. But the sales taxes would not apply to non-smokable products.
Smoking cannabis will be harder to get for people younger than 21. They will need to get a special form from their doctors. The form should state that the doctor is for crude cannabis use.
There are updates in the frequency of cannabis purchases, too. From 2022 people can buy cannabis every 2 weeks. The maximum amount for 2 weeks is 2,5 ounces of marijuana.
There are no MMJ cards in Louisiana. Other states’ medical cards are not valid here, too. Only residents may use MMJ in the state.
Now, you may raise a question. So how will I legally buy cannabis if there are not medical cards? Louisiana has other methods to ensure your marijuana eligibility. Given that, it is a licensed doctor certificate. The note shows that you are eligible for cannabis. Of course, it can only happen after a personal assessment. But in this case, the doctor does not give the certificate to you. Instead, the doctor sends it directly to the dispensary. You can decide the dispensary.
Eventually, the dispensary confirms the certificate. Your data is stored in Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). Note that the prescription is mandatory. And it needs refiling every 3 months.
The doctor’s certificate needs to update each year. Thus, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor annually.
No matter where marijuana is legal, it is still a federally illegal drug. Thus, there are some restrictions. Using MMJ in public places is strictly banned. For example, in schools or universities.
Driving a car under the MMJ influence is against the law, too. There are different punishments for this. You will have to pay a fine. It can be from $300 to $2000. In the worst-case scenario, you will spend much time in prison.
Your criminal background should be clear, too. People with a felony are not eligible for MMJ.
You can only buy MMJ from licensed dispensaries. Also, you cannot grow your own marijuana. Right now, there are limited caregivers in the state. They are only for minors. However, they cannot use MMJ. It will be illegal. MMJ is only for qualified patients.
As we have already mentioned, there is no medical card in Louisiana. Thus, you need to pay no fees for the card. However, it does not mean you can get MMJ free. First, you need to pay the doctor. The payment is for consultation and certificate. The fee may be more than $200.
Besides, you need to buy cannabis products. They are not cheap as well. There are very few insurance companies taking MMJ responsibilities. You can scarcely find them. Hence, you may spend more than $400 for a month’s supply.
Many factors are influencing the high prices. For instance, it can be restricted to MMJ use. Also, the limited MMJ pharmacies and growers. The new law may completely change the situation.
A doctor’s certificate is the only thing supporting patients to be eligible for MMJ. Thus, they need to have an allowance to do it. It is also important to note that only doctors can recommend. They are not eligible for prescribing the drug.
There is also a tendency that patients choose to visit clinics rather than find doctors. The reason for this is that finding MMJ certified doctors is not easy. Louisiana has a limited number of doctors to recommend MMJ.
Also, doctors should complete a course. It is an online course. The course allows them to get a special permit. A therapeutic marijuana registration permit is a must for a doctor. Otherwise, he/she cannot write legal MMJ recommendations.
LDAF is responsible for licensing MMJ growers. Only licensed growers can operate in the state.
Currently, there are 2 official MMJ growers. They are both universities. To illustrate, they are Louisiana State and Southern Universities. Both have agricultural centers. These centers are responsible for growing cannabis.
Perhaps, Louisiana chose universities to ensure a higher quality of the product. Also, it is safer as universities are more trustworthy. And the state has easier access to them.
Note: Individuals may not apply for an MMJ grower license. Businesses cannot apply, too. The thing is that the state has already chosen the licensed facility. Thus, only universities choose with whom to work.
MMJ dispensaries are also known as pharmacies. They are in limited numbers, too. Overall, there are 9 MMJ dispensaries. Until recently, they could not sell smokable cannabis. But the new law will give them that chance.
All MMJ dispensaries should have a license. LA Board of Pharmacy is responsible for the licensure. In Louisiana, the dispensaries cannot be more than 10. Thus, there is only one place left.
However, there is no open application process now. Hence, a business wanting to operate as a dispensary should wait. Perhaps, one day there will be some changes as we already faced some law changes, too. Accordingly, Louisiana will start to accept applications for both grower and dispensary licenses.