Smoking marijuana in a car isn’t illegal in Louisiana, but that’s likely to change

Black lawmakers express concern over increase in profiling

By: - March 29, 2022 4:39 pm
man lighting a marijuana joint

House Bill 234, which would outlaw marijuana smoking in a moving car, advanced from a legislative committee in an 11-3 vote Tuesday morning. (Canva image)

You’re not allowed to be under the influence of marijuana while driving in Louisiana, but there’s no law that expressly prohibits drivers or passengers from smoking weed.

That could change soon. House Bill 234, which would outlaw marijuana smoking in a moving car, advanced from a legislative committee in an 11-3 vote Tuesday morning.

“Now that medical marijuana flower is legal, I think it’s imperative that we sort make this clear that you should not be smoking marijuana in a car while operating a vehicle,” Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, author of the bill, said to the committee. “This bill’s just about public safety.”

Black lawmakers on the committee said their concern is that the proposal would give police another reason to make unwarranted stops of Black drivers who smoke legal substances, such as tobacco, when driving.

“I just don’t see how the enforcement can be done…” said Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, chairman of the Black Legislative Caucus said. “I just have a problem with law enforcement being able to pull people over because they see smoke, and I know that’s what probably is going to happen.”

“The same police that pull you over are not gonna pull me over, and it’s scary. It’s very scary,” Rep. Larry Selders, D-Baton Rouge, who is Black, said to Schlegel, who is White.

Selders voted in favor of the bill, but Pierre voted against it.

Louisiana State Police Capt. Robert Burns, who came before the committee to answer questions about how the law would be enforced, agreed that Schegel’s bill would present challenges for law enforcement.

“As far as just driving down the road being able to determine what someone is vaping or smoking in a car, I would have to say that would be difficult to enforce,” Burns told the committee.

Schlegel said she understood those concerns, but “I still don’t believe that people should be smoking marijuana in a car and they currently are doing this.”

Reps. Mack Cormier, D-Belle Chasse, Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, Michael Firment, R-Pollock, Larry Freiberg, R- Baton Rouge, Foy Gadberry, R-West Monroe, Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, Pat Moore, D-Monroe, Charles Owen, R-Rosepine, Robert Owen, R-Slidell, Rodney Schamerhorn, R-Hornbeck, and Selders voted for the bill.

Reps. Ken Brass, D-Vacherie, Joseph Marino, I-Gretna and Pierre voted against it.

The bill moves to the House floor next.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is a former Louisiana Illuminator reporter. Prior to working with the Illuminator, Canicosa worked for Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon. Canicosa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.