Jindal made his statement a day after the public packed a legislative meeting to discuss the legalization of both medicinal and recreational marijuana. State Rep. Dalton Honore, D-Baton Rouge, has also asked the Legislature to study amending state statute to allow medical marijuana use in some circumstances.
Lawmakers thought it was unlikely a bill legalizing medical marijuana would clear the state Legislature, but Jindal’s statement could be a game changer in some sense. Now, legislators know that a medical marijuana measure wouldn’t necessarily be vetoed by the governor.
“With [the governor’s] comments, I guarantee you somebody is going to file a bill,” said state Rep. Joe Lopinto, R-Metarie, who is chairman of the Legislature’s committee that would oversee medical marijuana bills. “From a legislative standpoint, the door is open.” “This is very good news for anyone who is in favor of the cause of medical marijuana,” said state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, who is sponsoring a bill to lessen sentences for those convicted of certain marijuana possession charges.
Neither legislator was surprised that Jindal, who is thought to have presidential aspirations, might be receptive to limited medical marijuana use in Louisiana. Several states already allow medical marijuana to be prescribed and the issue doesn’t have the stigma nationally that it once did, they said.
“I think it is maybe a sign of the changing of the times,” said Badon. In Louisiana, doctors are legally able to write prescriptions for medical marijuana use in certain cases already, but there are no places available to legally purchase the drug. If lawmakers wanted to make medical marijuana viable in the state, they would have to tweak a current state statute and provide the state pharmacy board with guidance on regulating dispensaries. Even if the governor wouldn’t stand in the way of a medical marijuana bill, Lopinto said there are several details that would have to be worked out before a new law could be adopted.
Louisiana would have to figure out, for example, whether pharmacies could carry medical marijuana or separate dispensaries would have to be used. Lopinto is not optimistic that such large and complicated regulatory issues could be worked out before Louisiana’s legislative session gets underway in March and a medical marijuana bill is introduced.
“That’s a difficult task. We would only have two months — less than two months — to put that together,” he said.
Honore would like to see the Louisiana take a different path to medicinal marijuana use than through a bill in the Legislature. He wants the matter put to a public vote and has asked staff to research how he could get medical marijuana put on a statewide ballot.