The times look to be a-chaingin’ as Louisiana is poised to legalize medical marijuana after both chambers of the legislature has passed a medical law and Governor Bobby Jindal has signaled that he will sign the bill. Additionally, Governor Jindal has stated his support for decreasing penalties for marijuana possessed by non-patients as well. The Times-Picayune reports on the medicinal cannabis measure:
Those with doctor’s recommendation could obtain the drug in non-smokable form – like oils or a pill — at one of 10 dispensaries scattered across the state. The bill authorizes one growing — or cultivation — site.
The cultivation site was originally supposed to have been selected through a public bid process. But an amendment added on the House floor Thursday gives first priority to the LSU and Southern University Ag Centers to host the site, if the centers want the job.
The bill restricts the use of medical marijuana to patients suffering from glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. However, the legislation requests that the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners submit recommendations of other qualifying conditions or diseases — like epilepsy or AIDS — that should be added to the list. The deadline for those recommendations is 60 days before the next legislative session.
As marijuana law reform has swept across the nation, conservative states in the South have lagged behind the rest of the country. A few factors have curtailed reform efforts in conservative areas of the country. Arkansas is one of the few states to defeat a medical marijuana legalization measure (albeit narrowly) and Florida’s medical marijuana measure garnered 58% of the vote, falling just 2% shy of satisfying Florida’s 60% barrier. Republicans tend to dominate conservative states’ governments and the GOP traditionally hasn’t supported cannabis law reform as much as Democrats and independents. Also, few southern states have the initiative process and initiative states have led the way in improving marijuana laws as politicians have lagged behind the public on the issue. While not perfect, the bill is a step in the right direction and will hopefully lead to greater reform in Louisiana and help convince other conservative states to follow suit.