Marijuana Law Reform Unlikely In Louisiana Anytime Soon


Graphic: The Tulane Hullabaloo

​Marijuana legalization went down in flames at the polls in California on Tuesday, and local experts in Louisiana say it’s very unlikely to happen there anytime soon, either.

“The chance of [marijuana law]changing here is extraordinarily remote,” said Robert Hogan, a political science professor at Louisiana State University. “The political system here does not lend itself to things like that.”
Hogan said Louisiana’s laws are unlikely to change because voters in Louisiana do not have the right to put an initiative like Proposition 19 on the ballot, reports Frederick Holl at The Daily Reveille.

Photo: LSU
Political science professor Robert Hogan: “The political system here does not lend itself to things like that”

​”In California they need a certain number of signatures to get something on the ballot, and if it’s passed, it becomes state law,” Hogan said.
In order for marijuana legalization or medical marijuana legalization to happen in Louisiana, a member of the Legislature would have to introduce a a bill, the bill would have to pass both houses of the Legislature, and the governor would have to sign it.
Politicians in a conservative state like Louisiana are unlikely to take those risks, according to Hogan.
But back in 1991, the Louisiana Legislature passed R.S. 40:1046, which would have authorized physicians “authorized to prescribe Schedule I substances” to prescribe marijuana for patients with glaucoma, cancer, and spastic quadriplegia “in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the secretary of health and hospitals and in accordance with the FDA and DEA administrative guidelines for procurement of the controlled substance from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.”
The language requiring federal approval, of course, kept the law from ever taking effect in the real world, since by definition substances classified as Schedule I are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses. Oh well, nice try!
Legalization of marijuana on a national level will come, although Louisiana may be one of the last states to implement it, according to Noah Mamber, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization group based in Washington, D.C.
“We’re going to change the laws across the country,” Mamber said. “Will Louisiana be part of the first wave of changing marijuana laws? Most likely not.”
Mamber criticized the Louisiana Legislature’s decision to quickly ban Spice and other forms of what has been called “synthetic marijuana,” instead of reforming marijuana laws.
“The proper response to Spice is to pass a tax-and-regulate law for marijuana so that people don’t have to use Spice. Marijuana is safe,” Mamber said.
The best news to come out of Louisiana recently for pro-legalization activists is that new bills like HP311 that increase marijuana penalties or are targeted at pot users did not pass this year in the Legislature, according to Mamber.
“That was a ridiculous bill that tried to require drug offenders to carry a scarlet letter, a modified driver’s license,” Mamber said.
Even though Louisiana’s pot penalties did not increase, the state had the fifth-highest marijuana arrest rate in the country in 2007, according to a report from marijuana activist Jon Gettman.
Louisiana had 18,535 cannabis arrests in 2007, according to the report.
Student involvement will be vital if marijuana laws are ever going to change in Louisiana, Mamber said.
“We’re going to continue to grow, and we’re going to change the demographic of society,” Mamber said. “Once they become the majority and the supporters of a failed prohibition become the minority, polls and legislatures will be more supportive of marijuana reform.”