The Louisiana Senate on Thursday approved a bill to give patients in the state’s medical marijuana program the ability to legally smoke cannabis flower.
The move, which comes a week after an effort to more broadly legalize marijuana in the state stalled in the House of Representatives, would mark a significant expansion to the current medical cannabis law if enacted. As it stands, patients are able to vaporize cannabis preparations via a “metered-dose inhaler,” but they cannot access whole-plant flower and smoking is not allowed.
The legislation cleared the Senate by a vote of 26-11 after previously being approved by the House. It would have headed directly to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), but the body quickly brought the measure back up and added technical amendments, meaning it must first go back to the other chamber for concurrence.
The governor of Minnesota signed a large-scale spending bill on Tuesday that similarly includes a provision to add smokable marijuana to that state’s medical cannabis program.
In Louisiana, senators also took up a companion House bill on Wednesday to tax medical cannabis flower. The body approved a floor amendment to extend the state’s general sales tax and steer the resulting revenue to infrastructure projects and utilities, but it was recommitted to committee before a final vote on the legislation was held.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee approved a House-passed bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana on Tuesday, sending it to the full chamber for final passage. That measure would make it so possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis would be punishable by a $100 fine without the threat of jail time.
On Monday, the House passed a resolution requesting the legislature conduct a formal study on the impacts of recreational marijuana legalization prior to the start of the 2022 session. It was approved by a vote of 63-27.
Numerous cannabis-related bills have been advancing in the conservative state this year, the most far-reaching of which is a proposal to legalize marijuana for adult-use. It hit a dead end last week, however, when the House defeated a companion bill to tax recreational sales. Its sponsor then pulled the legalization measure and a separate complementary bill on licensing fees.
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The governor said in a radio appearance last week that while full legalization hit a roadblock this year, he does believe it “is going to happen in Louisiana eventually.” He also spoke about the decriminalization and medical cannabis flower bills as examples of reform’s general momentum.
The developments on various cannabis-related legislation comes on the heels of a new poll showing that constituents in some of the most firmly Republican districts in the state support legalizing marijuana.
When it comes to legalization, while advocates generally expected resistance from Edwards, who has repeatedly expressed opposition to the reform, he did say last month that he has “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.
Last year, the legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.
Two other recent polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—have found that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.