It’s been a busy year in Baton Rouge so far! There were over 20 cannabis-related bills introduced this session. We have seen bipartisan support for both improving the medical program and for criminal justice reforms.
With only two weeks left in the legislative session, several bills have passed the House and are beginning to be taken up in Senate committees.
Criminal justice reform — Multiple bills have passed the House of Representatives that would reduce the harm done by Louisiana cannabis laws:
- HB 629, which would ban warrantless searches of homes based on the smell of cannabis, passed the House 66-28.
- HB 775, which would legalize paraphernalia for medical patients, passed the House 79-12.
- HB 1028, which would decriminalize cannabis paraphernalia for adult use (imposing a $50 fine), passed the House 56-40.
Let your senator know you support these criminal justice reforms!
We have also been able to keep the bill (HB 700) that would re-criminalize cannabis possession for minors — including by adding possible jail time — from getting a floor vote and helped build bipartisan opposition to it.
In other good news, HB 234, which would impose a fine on smoking or vaping cannabis in a moving vehicle, was amended in a Senate committee to make it a secondary offense (meaning you must be pulled over for another offense). This is important to ensure it’s not used as a tool for pretextual stops (including of people who may be smoking cigarettes or vaping nicotine).
Medical cannabis — We have seen strong bipartisan support for some improvements to the medical cannabis program, although we’ve been disappointed that the bill to remove the paltry cap on cultivation licenses was defeated.
- HB 697 — Many of the reforms are being rolled into HB 697, including moving oversight to the Department of Health from the Department of Agriculture; awarding another therapeutic cannabis pharmacy license in Jefferson Parish; increasing pharmacies after there are over 4,000 active patients in a region; and allowing existing pharmacies to open a satellite location in their region. The bill passed the House 77-16.
- HB 698, which would direct the Department of Health to regulate the testing of medical cannabis products, passed the House 73-19.
- HB 137, which would provide legal protections to verified out-of-state patients with cannabis in their possession, passed the House 66-25.
- HB 135, which would allow verified patients from out-of-state to purchase medical cannabis at in-state pharmacies, passed the House 73-22.
- HB 588, which would terminate the sunset clause for the medical program, passed the House 58-37.
These bills are all now pending in the Senate — either in committees or on the Senate floor. For more information, including the status of several other cannabis bills, you can check up our updated legislative overview. Unfortunately, some other valiant attempts to improve cannabis policies — including by setting up a framework for legalization and removing cannabis possession from the habitual offender sentencing — fell short this year.
Please share this message with friends and family in Louisiana. Together, we will continue to advance sensible cannabis policy in the Pelican State!