Yo, my name’s Dan and I’m here to give you the scoop on what’s going down with hemp products in Louisiana. So, check it – State Sen. Stewart Cathey and Sen. Jay Morris were at a Senate Agriculture Committee meeting on April 18 and they straight up said that legalizing hemp products with THC was not what they meant to do. “Last session we unknowingly created a recreational THC market in Louisiana,” said Cathey 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.”
So, Cathey introduced Senate Bill 219 on April 10, which wants to change the state’s law that allows up to 8 mg of THC in a hemp product. Instead, it proposes a maximum of 2 mg THC. Morris explained, “If we’re going to legalize [recreational THC], it needs to be done openly and honestly, which wasn’t done. It was sold to the Legislature as if we weren’t allowing psychoactive materials.” As of April 18, the committee approved the bill to go before the Senate.
But yo, peep this – advocates and business owners are speaking out about how this amendment will only hurt their businesses. Jason Garsee, who owns Str8W8 Cannabis and is also president of the Gulf South Hemp Association, said at the hearing that 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.”
John Ford Lafayette, president of Black Farmers Hemp, 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, Blaine Jennings from Virgin Hemp Farms, described the bill as “a direct attack on the thousands of business owners in this booming industry.”
Even Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder introduced a bill (House Bill 605) to amend current hemp law, but not to the extent of Cathey’s bill. 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 an audit of the Louisiana Department of Health (DOH). The report, titled “Oversight of Consumable Hemp Products,” found that 36 of the 2,564 registered consumable hemp products approved by the DOH were “prohibited.” Additionally, 198 edible products surpassed the 8 mg THC limit, among other examples of not complying with state law.
Alright, now let’s talk about cannabis in Louisiana. So, medical cannabis is legal and the industry is doing well. But recreational cannabis is not currently legal. However, 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.”
So, that’s the deal with hemp products in Louisiana. It’s causing some controversy, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the proposed bills. Stay tuned for more updates, ya dig?