Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal earned cheers from the medical marijuana community yesterday when he signed a law that will give medical marijuana access to patients. The signing came almost 25 years after Louisiana legalized cannabis use by chronically ill people.
Louisiana passed a law to allow medical marijuana in 1991, but it stayed dormant because the state legislature didn’t create a system to legally grow and distribute the drug. This new law takes care of that issue. That means Louisiana is now the first Southern state and 24th state overall to make medical marijuana available to its residents.
Along with signing that law, Jindal also signed a law that will reduce penalties for marijuana possession. Second-time pot possession is being reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. Also, first-time offenders will be able to erase their conviction after two years if they don’t get caught possessing marijuana again.
The Drug Policy Alliance released a statement after Jindal’s actions, saying, “Louisiana’s overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step. It’s a relief to see that smart policymakers are starting to recognize this political reality.”
According to an article in The Huffington Post, many say Governor Jindal may have been pressured to change the marijuana laws in the state after a state board denied clemency for Bernard Noble, a father of seven children who is serving 13-plus years for possessing 2.8 grams of marijuana in 2011. Since the conviction was Noble’s third drug offense, he was subject to Louisiana’s mandatory minimum sentencing for habitual offenders. The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole said state law requires Noble to serve 10 years before he can become eligible for clemency.