Louisiana is a champion of alcohol – but may have also helped marijuana a bit by not paying attention
Louisiana is known as a laid back state when it comes to drinking. Where else are there drive up liquor stores where you can order a cocktail? Louisiana’s drinking age was raised to 21 from 18 in 1986 to avoid losing federal highway dollars, but a loophole made it legal for bars and others to sell alcohol to those under 21, complicating possible enforcement of the law not fixed until 10 years later. But the state home to the Big Easy has the big quest about marijuana. Cannabis is definitely not as embraced as booze and the elected are wary – despite the public wanting it legal.
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During an April 18 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Louisiana State Senators Jay Morris and Stewart Cathey remarked that legalizing hemp products containing THC was not deliberate. According to The Daily Advertiser, during the meeting, Cathey stated that in the previous session, the Legislature inadvertently established a recreational THC market in Louisiana. He added that they did not intend to allow an unregulated psychoactive drug marketplace to be flooded throughout the state.
Senate Bill 219
On April 10, Cathey put forward Senate Bill 219, which was first discussed during the April 18 meeting. The bill suggests modifying the state law that permits a maximum of 8 mg of THC in a hemp product. Instead, it proposes reducing the limit to 2 mg of THC.
Morris elaborated that if the intention is to legalize recreational THC, it should be done transparently and candidly, which was not the case before. He added that the Legislature was informed that psychoactive substances would not be allowed. The committee approved the bill, which will now be presented before the Senate after the April 18 hearing.
As Cathey and Morris strive to modify the existing state law, advocates and entrepreneurs spoke about the adverse consequences that altering the law may bring.
Cannabis.net heard from locals on their reactions. John Ford Lafayette, the president of Black Farmers Hemp, expressed similar concerns, stating that it did not make sense and that they were attempting to develop an industry. Casey White, the owner of Pippi’s Purpose, indicated that they had invested their life savings in opening their storefronts. Blaine Jennings, the owner of Virgin Hemp Farms, referred to the bill as a direct assault on the thousands of business owners in the rapidly growing industry.
House Bill 605
House Bill 605 was also recently introduced by Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder to modify the existing hemp law. But to a different extent than Cathey’s proposal. Since federal legalization in 2018, Schexnayder has presented four hemp-related bills.
Schexnayder accused the Louisiana Health Department of mishandling the implementation of the hemp bills in March, stating that the Legislature’s intentions were clear.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor released the results of its audit of the Louisiana Department of Health on April 10. The “Oversight of consumable hemp products” report revealed that out of the 2,564 registered consumable hemp products approved by the DOH, 36 were prohibited. Moreover, 198 edible products exceeded the 8 mg THC limit, and several other examples showed non-compliance with state law.
Louisiana’s medical cannabis sector has thrived, but recreational cannabis remains illegal. However, the sale of cannabis flowers commenced in January 2022.
Despite the reluctance of the Legislature to legalize recreational cannabis, Louisiana has already established a medical cannabis program. Moreover, public opinion polls indicate that many Louisiana voters favor legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes.
According to a survey conducted by the University of New Orleans Research Center last year, 58% of registered voters in Louisiana expressed support for legalizing recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, 30% of respondents opposed it, and 12% did not have a clear stance.
In recent years, support for legalizing cannabis has increased in Louisiana. According to UNO polls, until 2021, most registered voters were against legalization. However, the trend shifted, with 54% opposing it in 2020 but 55% supporting it just one year later.
A survey conducted in 2021 by JMC Analytics discovered that nine districts, mainly in South Louisiana, where Trump had strong support, had significant backing for the legalization of cannabis. According to Marrero Democrat Representative Kyle Green, the 2021 survey by JMC Analytics aligns with what he has observed in his district. Green has brought a legalization bill before and has noticed that even some of his Republican Trump-supporting constituents favor legalization and use cannabis themselves.
However, public support for a policy does not guarantee it will be easy to pass. Nevada has shown a clear pathway for the other big convention/tourism state with one major city. You think they would like to them a model.