Louisiana may soon be the first state in the South to go green. Medical marijuana — which technically was legal in Louisiana for years without any legal framework — now has the infrastructure for production and distribution in the state.
Senate Bill 143 by state Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, has been named the Alison Neustrom Act, after the daughter of Lafayette Sheriff Mike Neustrom. Alison died in 2014 after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer.
On June 29, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into a law a measure that provides for a state-sanctioned grow site and a permitting process for dispensaries. Louisiana State University and Southern University have right of first refusal on hosting the state's grow site, and the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry will oversee production. The Louisiana Board of Pharmacy is in charge of licensing dispensaries.
Louisiana will join more than 20 other states where medicinal marijuana is legal, but it won't be an overnight change. Government agencies will spend the next year drafting recommendations and reports for the state Legislature before doctors begin writing prescriptions.
Medical marijuana advocates also are concerned that the measure's language — just one word in the bill — could set it up for failure. The bill refers to "prescriptions" for the drug rather than "recommendations," splintering from similar legislation in other states and potentially drawing unwanted attention from the Drug Enforcement Agency. Nevertheless, the effect is the same: Patients with a "recommendation" for medically approved pot will be able to receive it from government-approved and licensed dispensaries.