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Is using medical marijuana getting less dangerous in Louisiana?

Although Louisiana has technically had a medical marijuana exception on the books since the 1970s, no legal distributors have operated here, making legally obtaining the drug very difficult. For many years, it was technically legal for a doctor to prescribe marijuana to certain patients, and those with proper certification could legally obtain, but without legal distributors, the law was of little use.

Now, Louisiana looks poised to make significant steps forward to making medical marijuana not only legal, but also obtainable.

A law passed in 2016 creates the legal framework for state-sanctioned growing operations, as well as specialized pharmacies to distribute the drug legally.

Still, there are some who worry that new business opportunities are few and far between, while many opportunities exist for legal trouble at the state and federal level.

Does the new law pose dangers?

This year and the next may prove to be important years for every individual in the medical marijuana food chain.

For many years, Louisiana law provided doctors the ability to prescribe medical marijuana to patients. However, this wording is problematic, and has lead to virtually no instances of medical marijuana in Louisiana.

While it may seem like a small distinction, the new recent updates to the law changed the wording so that doctors may "recommend" medical marijuana rather than prescribe it. Under federal law, if a doctor "prescribes" a drug that is an illegal drug at a federal level, they may lose licensure through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Fortunately, the new law does not place doctors in any greater danger if they recommend medical marijuana.

To move the initiative forward, Louisiana State University and Southern University both agreed to host growing operations, which the state sanctions. However, these operations are a risk for the universities, not only a major opportunity.

The universities receive federal funding, which may dry up if federal enforcement of drug laws objects to the growing operations.

While the legislature passed the law last year, the moving parts have only been theoretical until now. Once the actual cultivation begins, the rub of state versus federal rights will truly come to bear.

Furthermore, while the public universities will house the growing, the actual operations will fall to private contractors, who may face their own levels of culpability.

Are medical marijuana users any safer?

This is a tricky question. It would be nice to think that all these movements to actualize medical marijuana in Louisiana would mean more relaxed enforcement, but there is no specific reason to believe that lawful marijuana users will enjoy many more protections than they do now.

Because of the way the law is written, there are very few patients who qualify for medical marijuana usage. Louisiana is famous for its relatively harsh drug possession laws, as well as its regular reliance on constructive possession in drug cases.

If you face drug possession charges, even if you legally may use marijuana, you must fight the charges as hard as you can, as quickly as you can.

Louisiana is making great strides into the 21st century by expanding its old medical marijuana laws, but it's drug possession laws remain very strict.

Do not hesitate to obtain strong legal guidance by an experienced defense attorney if you face drug charges — your rights and your future may depend on it.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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