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Marijuana, heroin bills being discussed

by Minden Press-Herald

Two bills, one dealing with medical marijuana and the other dealing with stiffer penalties for heroin distribution, have been referred to their respective committees.

House Bill 920, which deals with licensing and distribution of medical marijuana, was referred to the Committee on Health and Welfare Wednesday. Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, says with the present law, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture has the license to produce medical marijuana and authorizes the Louisiana Board of Pharmacies to license for dispensing it, with a limit of 10 licenses across the state.

“All this does, mainly, is prohibits a member of the board of pharmacies to produce or dispense therapeutic marijuana,” he said. “Once it gets to committee, it will change, and once it goes to the Senate, it will change again. It’s been on the books a long time, and now they’re just getting down to the nuts and bolts on how to do it – find the best way to produce it and dispense it.”

The growth and dispensing of medical marijuana was legalized in Louisiana June 29, 2015 when then-Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law the authorization to grow, prescribe and dispense the controversial plant, although it was technically legalized in 1978 and again in 1991.

The second bill, House Bill 926, has been referred to the Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. The idea behind the bill, Reynolds says, is to enforce stiffer penalties for distribution of heroin that contains fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine.

Authored by Rep. Stephen Dwight, District 35, if it passes through legislation and becomes law, the penalties for distribution of heroin with fentanyl would increase to 20 years at hard labor, no more than 99 years, without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

Upon the second or subsequent offense, according to the bill, the offender “shall be sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.”

Present law gives a sentence of 10 to 50 years with possibly up to a $50,000 fine on the first offense. Any second or subsequent offense is 10 to 99 years, with the first 10 without the benefit of probation parole or suspension of sentence.

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