Baton Rouge, LA (KPEL News) - Nearly half the states in American allow the recreational use of marijuana. You'll find the list of states where weed is legal below. Laws in more than a dozen others, including Louisiana, allow the medical use of cannabis.

Several states have decriminalized the possession of it. In Louisiana, a law approved by lawmakers and signed by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2021 made the possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana a misdemeanor charge with a penalty of no more than $100 and no jail time. Possession of over 14 grams could result in greater fines and possible jail time, with those penalties increasing incrementally for each subsequent offense.

At least nine bills have been pre-filed for the 2024 Regular Legislative Session that could change the way Louisiana deals with marijuana.

Louisiana lawmakers have been inching closer to legalizing cannabis for years. As noted, people don't face a very stiff penalty for just having it in specified amounts. Additionally, marijuana for medicinal use is legal with a doctor's prescription. The rub with the medical marijuana law is that only LSU and Southern University can grow it, and there are only 10 permitted dispensaries in the state. The law doesn't allow dispensing in smokeable form, and patients must have a qualifying condition.

State Representative Candace Newell (D- New Orleans) has pre-filed two cannabis bills. House Bill 54:

Provides for the regulation of the cultivation, manufacture, and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products.

Among other provisions, the law would increase the number of licenses available for production facilities.

Representative Newell's second proposition, House Bill 649, would send the decision about whether to legalize marijuana to a vote. The measure would be contingent upon approval by the voters and:

the legislature subsequently providing for a statutory regulatory system for the legal sale and distribution of marijuana and establishes a sales tax on those sales by Aug. 1, 2026.

The argument for legalization usually involves the state being able to collect sales tax on the legal sale of marijuana for personal use.

HB649 is similar to another pre-filed by State Representative Edmond Jordan (D- Baton Rouge). Representative Jordan's HB707 would allow individuals to grow marijuana plants at their homes for personal use.

Louisiana Veterans for Medical Cannabis will rally at the Louisiana State Capitol on Monday, the first day of the regular session, in support of Representative Jordan's bill.

HB707, in part, sets the stage for growing of marijuana plants for personal use. A person who is 21 or older and obtains a $75 annual permit could grow up to six plants in a secure area screened from public view. If more than one person in a household has a permit, the household would be limited to no more than 12 plants.

Tony Landry, a member of Louisiana Veterans for Medical Cannabis, told KPLC TV in Lake Charles:

We have 1,500 pharmacies that cell opiates and such in Louisiana. And those are the things that are killing people, and we feel, Louisiana Veterans for Medical Cannabis, we feel that homegrown is going to save lives by helping people avoid opiates.

Nearly 1100 bills have been pre-filed in the Louisiana House and Senate for the regular session which must end on June 3, 2024. The nine bills relating to marijuana have each been assigned to committee.

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