Louisiana state Sen. Stewart Cathey and Sen. Jay Morris stated in a recent Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on April 18 that legalizing hemp products with THC was unintended. “Last session we unknowingly created a recreational THC market in Louisiana,” Cathey said at the meeting, according to The Daily Advertiser. “It was not the intent of the Legislature to authorize a statewide flood of unregulated THC psychoactive drug marketplace.”
Cathey introduced Senate Bill 219 on April 10, and the most recent meeting held on April 18 was the first time the bill was discussed. SB-219 proposes to change state law that allows up to 8 mg of THC in a hemp product. Instead, it proposes a maximum of 2 mg THC. “If we’re going to legalize [recreational THC], it needs to be done openly and honestly, which wasn’t done,” Morris explained. “It was sold to the Legislature as if we weren’t allowing psychoactive materials.” As of the April 18 hearing, the bill was approved by the committee to appear before the Senate.
While Senators such as Cathey and Morris are working to amend the state’s current law, advocates and business owners spoke about the detrimental effects that amending the law will cause.
Business owners like Jason Garsee who owns Str8W8 Cannabis and is also the president of the Gulf South Hemp Association spoke publicly regarding how changes to current law will only hurt their businesses. “This bill would absolutely gut this industry,” Garsee said. “This bill you’re carrying right now is putting people out of business in your town, state and district. It would decimate my investment and my business.”
Likewise, Black Farmers Hemp president John Ford Lafayette shared similar concerns. “This doesn’t make any sense,” Lafayette said. “We’re trying to grow an industry.” Casey White of Pippi’s Purpose said that they’ve spent their life savings to open their storefronts. Another business owner, Virgin Hemp Farms owner Blaine Jennings, described the bill as “a direct attack on the thousands of business owners in this booming industry.”
Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder also recently introduced a bill (House Bill 605) to amend current hemp law, but not to the extent of Cathey. Schexnayder has introduced four hemp-related bills since it became federally legal in 2018.
In March, Schexnayder blamed the Louisiana Health Department for mishandling the implementation of the hemp bills. “It was crystal clear in what we wanted as a Legislature,” Schexnayder described.
On April 10, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor released the details of its audit of the Louisiana Department of Health (DOH). Entitled “Oversight of consumable hemp products,” the report found that 36 of the 2,564 registered consumable hemp products approved by the DOH were “prohibited.” Additionally, 198 edibles products surpassed the 8 mg THC limit, among other examples of not complying with state law.
Louisiana’s medical cannabis industry has become successful but recreational cannabis is not currently legal. Cannabis flower sales began in January 2022.
Also in January 2022, Louisiana Senate Candidate Gary Chambers smoked a blunt in a campaign video speaking about the failed War on Drugs and how it has affected people of color. “Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for marijuana. Since 2010, state and local police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws, over half of all drug arrests,” Chambers said in his video. “Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people. States waste $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. Most of the people police are arresting aren’t dealers, but rather people with small amounts of pot, just like me.”