A Guide to Louisiana Cannabis Law
Cannabis in Louisiana is legal only for medicinal use; recreational possession of 14 grams or less is decriminalized punishable by a fine of no more than $100. Medicinal use is allowed with a physician’s written recommendation for any debilitating condition. Prior to statewide decriminalization, possession of small amounts of marijuana was first decriminalized in the cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport.
Here’s a rundown of Louisiana’s new marijuana laws:
- Act 473 (House Bill 629) law enforcement from using marijuana odor as a pretext for searching someone’s home without a warrant. Bryant said searching a home because an officer claims to smell marijuana is a violation of the Fourth Amendment preventing unreasonable searches.
- Act 651 (House Bill 988) by Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, prevents state workers from being discriminated against based solely on a positive drug test for marijuana if they are state-registered medical marijuana patients.
- Act 499 (House Bill 775) by Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, legalizes equipment or devices used for the inhalation of marijuana for state-registered medical marijuana patients.
- Act 438 (House bill 135) by Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna, authorizes the dispensing of medical marijuana to visiting patients who are currently in another state’s medical marijuana program.
- Act 439 (House Bill 137) by Marino provides immunity from criminal prosecution to qualifying out-of-state medical cannabis patients.
- Act 444 (House Bill 190) by Rep. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia, adds nurse practitioners to those medical professionals who can recommend medical cannabis use.
- Republican House Health and Welfare Committee Chair Larry Bagley of Stonewall praised Johnson’s bill, saying, “We have no doctors in DeSoto Parish. We see nurse practitioners.”
- Act 478 (House Bill 234) by Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, makes it illegal for a driver or passengers in a motor vehicle to smoke or vape any form of marijuana. Violators are subject to a $100 fine, but police may only “enforce the provisions of this section as a secondary action when the law enforcement officer detains a driver for another violation.”
- Act 491 (House Bill 697) by Republican Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee of Houma keeps the current number of medical marijuana pharmacists, but allows them to open satellite dispensaries within their regions when their patient count hits certain thresholds.
Louisiana Marijuana Pharmacy Licensing and Regulations
- Approved ten new cannabis bills in June including one measure that would expand the number of dispensaries (marijuana pharmacies) in Louisiana. The Department of Health will now oversee cannabis licensing and regulations in Louisiana. The measures will take effect on August 1, 2022. Louisiana currently has 30,000 registered patients according to NORML.
Louisiana Marijuana Pharmacy Licenses
- House Bill 697 increases the number of marijuana pharmacy licenses from ten to thirty. Current licensees may open a “satellite” location if the original dispensary location reaches 3,500 patients. If the satellite location also reaches 3,500 registered patients, a second satellite location is permitted to open. If any location drops below 3,5000 patients, licensees will not lose their licenses or locations. All satellite marijuana pharmacies must be in the same region as the original location.
- No more than three total locations/licenses per each operator are allowed. If a current licensee opts out of opening a second or third location, the state will issue a new license to a new operator. The state “shall consider the status of an applicant as minority, woman, or veteran owned business” as a primary factor in awarding a new license.
Louisiana Marijuana Pharmacy Locations
- Louisiana marijuana pharmacy locations are divided into ten regions. Each region houses one license; however, the board will consider unserved parishes when approving satellite and additional locations. Marijuana pharmacies must be located at least fifteen miles away from one another with two exceptions. If a parish has a population of over 350,000 people, dispensary locations must be at least ten miles away from one another. If a municipality has over 350,000 people, marijuana pharmacies are allowed to be located within a five-mile radius of one another.
Louisiana Cannabis Industry
- Louisiana cannabis cultivation licenses are currently unavailable. Louisiana contracts with LSU Agricultural Center and Southern University Agricultural Center to supply all medical cannabis to marijuana pharmacies in the state. All cannabis progress in Louisiana is welcome, as “smokeable cannabis” was legalized in January of 2022.
Louisiana Rolls Out Regulatory Scheme for Medical Marijuana
- Louisiana’s regulatory construct begins with the production of medical marijuana. Louisiana State University Agricultural Center (LSU) and Southern University Agricultural Center (Southern) hold the licenses to produce medical marijuana in Louisiana.
- The marijuana must be refined and may be recommended in the following forms only: oils, extracts, tinctures, sprays, capsules, pills, solutions, suspension, gelatin-based chewables, lotions, transdermal patches, and suppositories.
- Medical marijuana does not include the inhalation or vaping of marijuana, and Louisiana prohibits the recommendation of medical marijuana for inhalation – raw or crude.
- LSU has contracted with GB Sciences, LLC and Southern with Advanced Biomedics, LLC to operate their medical marijuana businesses.
- The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) regulates physicians who recommend marijuana for therapeutic use.
Physician must be:
- In order to recommend medical marijuana, a physician must register with the LSBME and comply with Louisiana laws and regulations.
- To be eligible to register, a physician must: hold a current unrestricted license to practice medicine in Louisiana, hold a current Schedule I authority from the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy (LBP), be domiciled in and practice at a physical location within the state, and complete an online educational activity available on the LSBME web page.
- The registration must be renewed annually.
- A registered physician may not recommend medical marijuana for more than 100 patients absent an exception granted by the LSBME.
- Further, a registered physician may not have an ownership or investment interest, directly or indirectly, in a medical marijuana pharmacy or producer.
- Physicians may recommend medical marijuana only for an approved list of debilitating conditions: cancer, positive status for HIV, AIDS, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post traumatic disorder, and four conditions associated with autism spectrum disorder.
- When recommending medical marijuana, physicians must follow a specific set of rules addressing: diagnosing the debilitating medical condition, reviewing the patient’s information on the prescription monitoring program, taking into consideration the physician’s independent medical judgment, creating a treatment plan, obtaining informed consent from the patient, monitoring the patient’s continued use of the medical marijuana, and documenting the patient’s medical record.
- A physician must terminate or refuse to initiate the patient’s use of medical marijuana if the physician becomes aware that the patient: is not a qualifying candidate for use of medical marijuana, has failed to show clinical benefit from the use of medical marijuana, or has engaged in diversion or misuse of or has abused the medical marijuana.
- The Louisiana Department of Health maintains a list of registered physicians who may recommend medical marijuana. When the list was last updated on June 6, 2018, 16 such physicians had registered and were approved.
Nontransferable License to Pharmacy
- The LBP has developed a nontransferable license to allow a pharmacy to dispense marijuana for therapeutic purposes.
- Under the Board’s rules, no more than ten marijuana pharmacy permits may be active at the same time. The legislature requires equitable distribution of the marijuana pharmacies across the state, and the Board allocated one permit to each of the nine regions of the state established by the Louisiana Department of Health.
- The nine permits were awarded in April 2018.
- The applicants awarded the permits must commence operations on the marijuana pharmacy within 310 days after notice of award of the permit, or the Board may rescind the permit.
- The tenth pharmacy permit may be issued at a future date following a determination of need.
Implications for Providers
- The legalization of medical marijuana opens a host of issues for providers. Although Louisiana has approved the use of medical marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law. Also, medical marijuana has not been approved by the FDA. Hospitals and other providers will need to determine how to address medical marijuana use in their facilities and adopt appropriate policies and procedures in that regard. Providers may take any of a number of approaches to medical marijuana use by facility patients or residents, including: medical marijuana will not be allowed in the facility; medical marijuana will be allowed and self-administered by the patient/caregiver in accordance with state law; medical marijuana will be allowed and administered by nurses in accordance with state law.
- Facilities with employees who use medical marijuana may contend with issues such as managing use of the drug at work or addressing the drug’s presence in drug testing. Regardless of the approach chosen, providers should be ready to face the question of whether and how patients and/or employees may take their recommended medical marijuana while on the provider’s premises as an inpatient, resident, or employee.
Louisiana’s medical marijuana industry is exclusive. Will lawmakers open the market up?
- As medical marijuana has rocketed from a niche product to a multi-million dollar market in Louisiana, a growing number of lawmakers and advocates are questioning the strict limits put on licenses for growing and selling the drug.
- The most robust effort to change the insular structure will soon play out at the Legislature. Several prominent lawmakers have filed bills, some competing with one another, to overhaul the system. All of them cite similar goals: Expand access for patients and drive down prices, which have drawn complaints from patients and advocates.
- Louisiana: dispensaries may not advertise products or provide pricing information publicly.
- In the early years of the program, the two growers warred with Strain over his regulatory power over them.
- While that battle has simmered, Strain’s testing of the product has emerged as a sticking point as flower – the popular smokable form of the drug – has finally hit the shelves this year.
- Records from Strain’s office show Ilera Holistic Healthcare, the company hired by Southern, had 330 pounds of flower fail testing because of yeast and mold issues. The failures happened between late November, when growers were preparing for the flower rollout, and late January. Since then, Ilera’s products have passed all testing, and Tabitha Irvin, who oversees medical marijuana for Strain, said the products that failed were remediated and later approved.
- The records also show long testing delays, of up to 17 working days, at the beginning of the flower rollout. But that number has improved since January, averaging six working days for results to come back. “It’s not the department holding things up,” Irvin said.
- While a number of pharmacies have run out of product early in the flower rollout, the growers have not blamed Strain – at least not publicly. But they have privately told pharmacy owners the problems can be traced to the Agriculture Department’s slow testing process.
Louisiana Cannabis Advertising Guide
- The licensee shall not advertise through any public medium, including but not limited to newspapers, television, radio, internet, or any other means designated to market its products to the general public. The licensee may market its products directly to the licensed dispensaries and to physicians through direct mail, brochures or other means directed solely to the licensed dispensaries and/or physicians and not available to the general public.
- Any advertisement permitted by Paragraph (A) shall not:
- make any deceptive, false, or misleading assertions or statements regarding any product; or
- assert that its products are safe because they are regulated by the department. The licensee may state in advertisements that its products have been tested by an approved laboratory, but shall not assert that its products are safe because they are tested by an approved laboratory
Louisiana Cannabis Tax
- Medical marijuana: Purchases by patients are not subject to taxes.
- Marijuana. Upon each gram of marijuana, or each portion of a gram, a tax of ($3.50) three dollars and fifty cents
- Controlled dangerous substances.
- Upon each gram of controlled dangerous substance, or portion of a gram, a tax of two hundred dollars.
- Upon each ten dosage units of a controlled dangerous substance that is not sold by weight, or portion thereof, a tax of four hundred dollars.