Essentially, Mills’ SB541 would address how medical marijuana would be distributed, grown, regulated and prescribed by physicians, as medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1991, it just has not been obtainable by patients.
Under the proposed Louisiana legislation, physicians would be regulated through the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners, dispensers would be regulated through the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy and growers would be regulated through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
An applicant seeking medical marijuana for treatment purposes would have to be 21 years old or older. Mills told The Advertiser that his legislation has nothing to do with marijuana legalization for recreational purposes.
“It’s not addressing the recreational use whatsoever,” Mills said. “And if you think about what can be used for an epileptic or a glaucoma patient or a cancer patient, the present drugs that are being prescribed right now have numerous side effects that can be quite dangerous and quite addictive.”
Mills said he hopes medical marijuana “becomes an industry” for the state.
Marijuana legislation is nothing new for legislators this legislative session. A number of bills face legislators, particularly on the House Criminal Justice Committee, that would lessen penalties for marijuana usage for second, third and fourth-time offenders.
Just yesterday, committee debate and action was halted after the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association (LSA) Executive Director Michael Ranatza said that HB14, proposed by State Rep.Austin Badon Jr. (D-New Orleans) could potentially lead to marijuana decriminalization.
However, Louisianians for Responsible Reform (LRR) Executive Director Brian Welsh said the move by the LSA is simply protecting the status quo.
“What we saw today with the Sheriff’s Association turning on Rep. Badon and his compromise legislation should send notice to everyone that the LSA and others are desperately trying to protect a status quo that wastes the state $20 million a year while destroying families and communities,” said Welsh in a news release. “Apparently the LSA believes collecting taxpayer money for the privilege of incarcerating people who possess a single marijuana cigarette is worth the waste and the damage it causes to families throughout Louisiana.”
Also, a LRR legislative and legal adviser, Greg Thompson said his analysis of the costs of mandatory marijuana sentencing laws found nearly $20 million in annual costs to Louisiana taxpayers, while $8 million of that goes towards sheriffs in payments from the state and parish governments for housing inmates.
Legislation by Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton) and J.P. Morrell (D-New Orleans) is currently pending. Their legislation would reduce criminal penalties for low-level marijuana users even more so by classifying all of the offenses as misdemeanors.