The Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee recently passed House Bill 707 in a unanimous vote to propose a regulatory framework for the state’s cannabis legalization.

The measure, which prefiled in March, doesn’t directly legalize adult-use cannabis but it does start the process of building a foundation for reform. The goal, according to Rep. Edmond Jordan who introduced the bill, is to attempt to get HB-707 passed in the legislature in 2024, followed by introducing two other bills in 2025 which would address adult-use possession and cannabis taxes.

Toward the end of a meeting on April 24, Jordan spoke about HB-707 to the House Health and Welfare Committee. “This is a very simple bill,” said Jordan. “What it does…it is for the adult use of cannabis. It sets up the retail side with dispensaries and how we would do that.”

The bill would allow adults over 21 to purchase one ounce of cannabis every day, and would also allow residents to pay $75 per year to obtain a permit to grow up to six plants at home (with a maximum of 12 plants).

Jordan projected that if adult-use cannabis sales were legal, it could potentially provide more than $1 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years, which includes an estimated $100 million annually going into the state general fund.

Marijuana Policy Project southeast legislative manager, Kevin Caldwell, was also present to discuss the prospect of adult-use cannabis in Louisiana. According to a report created by Vicente law firm’s economic forecaster model created for Louisiana, there are currently 430,000 adult-use cannabis consumers in the state, and by 2033 the industry could be valued at $900 million. “The total regulated market between 2024-2033 would be $5.8 billion,” Caldwell stated, adding that the report believes Louisiana adult-use cannabis could be put in place by 2027, and between 2027-2023, the industry could be valued at $1.17 billion. This was based on Rep. Barbara Freiberg’s adult-use tax bill which was introduced in 2023, and included a proposal of current local and state taxes, with the addition of a 15% excise tax.

The adult-use cannabis industry fiscal impact, according to the report, would also generate $13.4 billion between 2027-2033.

The report utilized data from all 24 states with legalized adult-use cannabis. Caldwell answered numerous questions from Rep. Rhonda Butler about how the report developed the projected numbers, and the effects of crime increasing in legal states (research shows that it hasn’t led to an increase in crime), and the regulation of potency.

A total of 17 amendments for HB-707 were also adopted during the meeting, including transferring management of a cannabis program from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), the removal of a cap on licenses that the LDF can issue to cultivators, processors, and manufacturers, changes a license requirement regarding stakeholder disqualification if they were guilty of or plead guilty to a cannabis-related conviction, and removing a penalty for civil violations.

One individual spoke in opposition about the bill in regard to claims about the impact of cannabis use among youth. “We don’t need to bring this scourge into our state. We just don’t,” they said.

Jordan returned to the podium to speak about the reality of cannabis in Louisiana. “Look, we’re not bringing this into the state, it’s already here. So let’s not ignore what we already have here,” Jordan explained. “The real issue is: do we want to regulate it, do we want to make it safer for our kids, do we want to make sure that we don’t have this laced with fentanyl in some grey or illegal market. I think if we bring it above ground, we regulate it, we’re able to test it, we’re able to do all these other things to make sure that it’s safe, it’s gonna make it better for our kids.”

Jordan asked that the bill be sent to the floor for further discussion, where he can present evidence that contradicts what the opposition discussed. Ultimately the committee voted 10-0 to approve HB-707.

Successful cannabis legislation has been hit or miss over the past few years in Louisiana. In April 2023, a bill to decriminalize cannabis was killed in committee before it was able to reach the House floor. In June 2023, House Bill 286 was signed by Gov. Jeff Landry, which implemented expungements for those who have previously been convicted of cannabis possession. In March 2024, the state’s 10th medical cannabis dispensary opened.

Also recently in March 2024, Louisiana police reported that rats had infiltrated confiscated cannabis and were eating all of the flower. AP News spoke with a police superintendent who said that the “uncleanliness is off the charts,” at that particular building, and it’s not the janitorial staff’s fault.

 [[{“value”:”If signed into law, the Louisiana bill would establish a regulatory framework for recreational cannabis, including home cultivation.
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