The year 2016 brought about some noteworthy changes to the legislation related to medical marijuana in the state of Louisiana. While the state has had laws dating back to the 1970s permitting the use of medical marijuana, they were basically unusable until recently. After hearing lobbying from concerned citizens, especially parents who support the use of the drug to help mitigate the effects of seizure in children, the state voted to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes. And while it will still be over two years until access to the substance is officially granted, advocates are pleased that Louisianans will be able to obtain this substance through qualified medical professionals. The new laws allow doctors to recommend as opposed to prescribing the drug, which could compromise their DEA licensing under federal law.
The city of New Orleans has also adopted some new regulations related to marijuana use for recreational purposes. Here, the use of marijuana has been decriminalized, and while police can still write tickets for use of the substance, penalties now consist of lesser fines and no jail time for small amounts of the substance.
The Critics Weigh In
Critics of this latest wave of updates to marijuana legislation in Louisiana fear that any efforts to decriminalize or legalize it for medical use are merely backdoor attempts to fully legalize the drug for recreational consumption. In a state where drug abuse is a mounting problem, these individuals are seeking to bar any rulings that could allow greater ease of access to cannabis.
But proponents of legalization cite comparisons between the ways that marijuana affects the brain and body with other substances of abuse. While one can certainly develop a dependence on marijuana, the resulting addiction is a more behavioral than chemical as is the case with drugs such as nicotine or oxycodone, both of which are legal.
Despite what the legal status of the substance is, it should be noted that marijuana, like any mood-altering substance, has the potential to be abused. Just like more societally accepted drugs such as alcohol, marijuana carries the potential for addiction. And a marijuana dependence can negatively impact many areas of an individual’s life including important relationships, the ability to perform at school and work, and physical and emotional health.
So while marijuana has shown to be a medically helpful substance for many painful conditions, its use for recreational purposes continues to be embedded with controversy. As more medical personnel are given the option of recommending this substance, they will have the responsibility of educating their patients about the potential for habit-forming outcomes. Additionally, as more localities decriminalize marijuana, allowing for legal recreational use of the substance, initiatives will be needed to educate the public on safe use practices, and on warning signs of addictive behaviors.