In A Flash

Louisiana House backs bill to make smoking marijuana in a vehicle illegal

By: - April 6, 2022 4:32 pm
Drug testing at work problematic for medical marijuana patients

A proposal that would outlaw marijuana smoking in a moving car for drivers and passengers advanced from the state House of Representatives in n 66-31 vote Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Canva image)

You’re not allowed to possess non-medical marijuana while in a car in Louisiana, and it’s illegal to be under its influence while driving. But there’s no actual prohibition against smoking weed behind the wheel, something that would change under a bill the Louisiana House of Representatives approved Wednesday.

Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Metairie, said she authored House Bill 234 as a highway safety measure, given that more forms of medical marijuana are now legal in Louisiana. Her proposal would also apply to passengers in a vehicle.

The bill makes smoking marijuana in a moving vehicle a primary offense, which means police could pull over anyone suspected of a violation. Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, told Schegel during House floor debate he was concerned her bill would lead to more unwarranted police stops.

Opponents also noted that cops could mistake a cigarette or vaping device for marijuana and could still rightfully pull over a vehicle.

In committee testimony last week, Louisiana State Police Capt. Robert Burns told lawmakers Schlegel’s bill would present challenges for law enforcement. In response to a question from Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, Schlegel said police did not ask her to file her bill, which she said has support from district attorneys.

Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, challenged Schlegel’s claims that her measure would make highways safer. Without citing a source, he said there are 50% more auto accidents in Louisiana than California and Colorado, two states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Nelson unsuccessfully sponsored a bill last year to sanction and tax recreational marijuana in Louisiana.

The House voted 66-31 to approve Schegel’s bill, advancing it to the Senate.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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