Medical marijuana will be back on the table during the Louisiana Legislature’s spring lawmaking session.
Rep. Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, has pre-filed a bill that would allow for marijuana to be dispensed and distributed for medical purposes.
“I think the state needs to move its discussion on this. The polls show people 80 percent in favor it,” he said.
The Legislature legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1991, but the current law does not allow for the legal dispensing of the medicine. Doctors can legally prescribe it, patients can legally use it, but there is no way to acquire it. Honore’s bill would address the lack of a middle man.
Last year, 79 percent of Louisiana residents participating in an LSU survey said they supported some marijuana legalization. Gov. Bobby Jindal has also indicated he would back access to medical marijuana, as long as it was tightly regulated.
Still, Honore and state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, brought up very similar legislation last year, only to see the proposal was killed in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The powerful Louisiana Sheriffs Association and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell opposed the legislation.
Mills, who is a pharmacist by trade, said he plans to introduce another medical marijuana bill this year, though he is hoping to get some buy-in from the sheriffs and other law enforcement officials beforehand.
“I am willing to compromise so we don’t get in a log jam,” Mills said.
It’s also possible that dispensaries could arrive in Louisiana through Indian tribal land, thereby side-stepping any legislative requirement. The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not prevent Indian tribes from growing marijuana on sovereign lands.
Louisiana is home to at least four federally-recognized tribes. The Chitmacha Tribe of Louisiana has land near Charenton in Acadiana. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana owns about 5,000 acres near Elton in Southwest Louisiana. The Jena Band of Choctaw Indians and Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe of Louisiana are headquartered in central Louisiana.
No Louisiana-based tribe has expressed a public interest in growing or dispensing marijuana yet.