By Emily Ledger
The southern US state of Louisiana is set to make significant changes to its medical cannabis offerings with the potential legalisation of smokable medical cannabis products.
The proposal, which was given its final approval from the House of Representatives in a 76-17 vote, would legalise cannabis flower to be smoked or vaporised for medical purposes. Currently, patients are permitted to vaporise cannabis preparations via a metered-dose inhaler, however, whole-plant preparations and smoking of the plant are still restricted.
An earlier version of the bill was approved by the chamber in May but an amendment made by the Senate meant that the proposal would have to be re-approved. Now, the bill will be sent to Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (Democrat) who is expected to sign the legislation shortly.
Furthermore, a companion bill that would introduce the taxation of medical cannabis flower is also advancing through the state Senate. A floor amendment was also approved to extend the state’s general sales tax and divert the resulting tax revenue to fund infrastructure projects and utilities.
The state Senate is also preparing to consider a proposal that would decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis. The proposed bill would replace the risk of jail time with a $100 fine for the possession of up to 14 grams of the drug. The measure was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 67-25 in May.
Representative Cedric Glover of the Democrats – a sponsor of the decriminalisation bill – stated at a committee hearing last week that “House Bill 652 seeks to address a problem that I think many of us have recognised over the years.”
These latest developments in Louisiana reflect wider attitude changes towards cannabis – both medical and recreational – that are sweeping across the US. While the government continues to consider the federal decriminalisation of cannabis, the number of states considering complete legalisation is consistently on the rise.