BATON ROUGE, La. (May 14, 2018) – Last Wednesday, the Louisiana Senate passed three bills that would relax restrictions on medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state. Final passage of these bills would further nullify federal drug laws in the Pelican State.
Rep. Rodney Lyons (D-Harvey) introduced House Bill 627 (HB627) with 27 bipartisan co-sponsors to expand access to medical marijuana to individuals suffering from autism who exibit certain symptoms.
“The anecdotal evidence is wonderful and substantial and gives us all hope,” Katelyn Castleberry, a Louisiana resident with sons who suffer from autism, told WDSU 6 News. “There are children who speak after being on medical cannabis. There are children whose nervous system settle down and their entire system is improved.”
Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) introduced House Bill 579 (HB579) to expand access to medical marijuana to individuals suffering from glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, Parkinson’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder. It was approved with slight technical amendments.
“This will help address a growing opioid crisis, prolong like, make life more enjoyable for some people and save some lives,” James said.
Rep. Vincent Pierre (D-Lafayette) introduced House Bill 823 (HB823) to prevent the medical marijuana program from expiring in 2020, which it would do under the law as it is currently written. Amendments to the bill added by the Senate extend the deadline to 2025.
HB627 passed the House by a 71-21 vote on Apr. 5 and then cleared the Senate by a 21-10 vote on May 9. HB579 passed the House on Apr. 12 by a 60-40 vote and then passed the Senate by a 21-13 vote on May 9. HB823 was approved by the House in a 69-26 vote on Apr. 18 and then passed the Senate by a 25-9 vote on May 9.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB579, HB627, and HB823 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Further legalization of medical marijuana in Louisiana would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Louisiana could sweep away some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Louisiana legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but the program remains dormant years later. By further relaxing restrictions, Louisiana hopes to join other states that have significantly chipped away at cannabis prohibition.
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. In January, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act.
With 29 states including New Hampshire allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
The House will have to concur with the Senate versions of HB579, HB627, and HB823 before they can be sent to the Governor’s desk. Concurrence votes are scheduled to take place on May 16.