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In June 2019, Louisiana lawmakers approved a measure that allows state farmers to get into the hemp-growing business. The measure also authorizes and regulates sales of hemp-derived CBD. Louisiana is one of the first three states to have its hemp program approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The state plans to allow commercial cultivation for the first time in 2020.
Sale of any amount of recreational marijuana, whether as a first offense or subsequent offense, is punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence of at least 5 years. The distribution of marijuana also leads to life prison terms for up to 90 years and heavy fines ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
Medical marijuana in Louisiana became available to patients starting in August 2019. Agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University have been selected to grow cannabis for the state, overseen by the state agriculture department. Nine dispensaries have been selected throughout the state.
The cultivation of cannabis for any purpose is a major offense in Louisiana. Cultivation of any amount of marijuana as a first offense is punishable by a 5-year minimum mandatory sentence and 30 years maximum prison time, along with up to $50,000 in fines. Soliciting a minor to cultivate marijuana can lead up to 90 years in jail, with up to $20,000 in fines.
Updated August 2019
Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.
- Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Intractable Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Seizure Disorders
- Severe Muscle Spasms
Despite launch delays, lawmakers have continued to make efforts to improve the program. In June 2018, Gov. Edwards signed into law two measures that expand the state’s medical marijuana program. House Bill 579 adds glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Parkinson’s disease as qualifying conditions. House bill 672 allows for medical marijuana to be used in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
With more states legalizing the use of marijuana it can be hard to stay up to date on Louisiana marijuana laws. Click to learn more about marijuana laws in LA!
“We have heard from some patients that there are not enough physicians authorized to issue recommendations for medical marijuana,” said Malcom Broussard, the board’s executive director. “Others have told us about the limited number of pharmacies available to dispense the product as well as the retail cost of those products.”
One change likely to come out of the next legislative session is expanding the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, said Mills and Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain.
“We will be supportive of whatever the Legislature asks us to do,” Strain said.
“His neurologist had come to a point where we were just at a loss,” said Corkern. “We tried so many different medications, we tried surgeries, we did diets, and nothing was really relieving him from the constant seizure activity in his brain.
“And that person should have that opportunity,” he said. ”You have prescription therapy, and there should be an alternative.”
Still, some advocates say it costs so much to buy medical marijuana that patients could be tempted to black market means of obtaining cannabis. Patients also could find a legal loophole by obtaining a doctor’s recommendation, purchasing unregulated, untested marijuana on the black market, and then using the recommendation to bypass drug tests.
Johnson also hopes to expand legislation to allow farmers to grow hemp.
Thus began Corkern’s journey, along with State Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks and many other advocates, to legalize medical marijuana in Louisiana. That happened in 2016, but the therapeutic use of marijuana is just gaining momentum here after a slew of delays and regulatory setbacks. Roughly 3,500 patients in Louisiana are using it, mostly to relieve pain, and some see it as a substitute for highly addictive opioids. And with more supporters of the program joining the state Legislature this year, it may be expanded to provide greater accessibility statewide.
“I think what we wanted to be was extra cautious,” he said. “Sometimes, as you know, perfection and being too cautious can take time.”
Medical marijuana was first legalized in Louisiana in the 1970s, but the legislation lacked the regulations needed to implement it.