Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) just signed off on ten bills that will expand the state's medical cannabis program, regulate hemp businesses, and limit cops’ ability to harass people for weed.
Two of these new laws will expand medical pot access to patients from other states. The first of these new provisions makes it legal for patients with valid out-of-state medical cannabis cards to purchase medical pot at Louisiana dispensaries. The second law blocks cops from arresting out-of-state patients for possessing medical pot, as long as they are otherwise complying with the law.
Edwards also signed a bill that will allow the state's existing dispensaries to open additional retail locations. This new law will eventually increase the total number of medical cannabis pharmacies from 9 to 30. In the unlikely event that an existing retailer declines to open a new storefront, the state will allow new companies to fill the void. Another bill will further expand access by allowing nurse practitioners to recommend medical pot to patients.
A decade ago, the Pelican State was one of the least cannabis-friendly states in the entire US. Under the state's extreme mandatory minimum laws, someone caught selling even a dime bag of weed could end up being locked behind bars for life. But in 2015, the state legalized medical marijuana, and lawmakers have continually expanded the program ever since. And last year, Louisiana finally decriminalized minor pot possession, replacing the threat of jail time with a $100 fine.
Two new bills approved by the governor will further restrict law enforcement from discriminating against cannabis users. The first of these necessary reforms bars state cops from using the odor of weed as probable cause to enter or search people's homes without a warrant. Cops will also be blocked from arresting registered medical marijuana patients for possessing pot paraphernalia. The state also enacted a law that will prohibit anyone from smoking or vaping weed in a vehicle, and another that will impose new fees on cannabis testing facilities.
And finally, the governor also signed two hemp bills into law. The first creates an official Industrial Hemp Promotion and Research Program tasked with supporting the growth and development of the state's hemp industry. Another bill imposes several new restrictions on hemp companies, creating new licensing standards and forcing businesses to conduct criminal background checks on new employees. This law also prohibits the sale of smokable hemp and prohibits companies from adding cannabinoids to alcoholic drinks.
“Not long ago, Louisiana had perhaps the harshest cannabis laws in the nation and no medical cannabis program,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, to Marijuana Moment. “Louisiana has made steady progress since then, and that trend continued in 2022. We applaud the legislature and governor for enacting a half dozen bills to expand the medical cannabis program, including reciprocity and allowing more locations to dispense cannabis, along with its limitation on warrantless searches based on the smell of cannabis.”