Louisiana legislators approve bill to protect unemployment benefits for medical marijuana patients

“I wasn’t trying to create a law that says you can be stoned at work because that’s ridiculous.”

Illuminator, Louisiana, by Piper Hutchinson

The Louisiana House Labor Committee on Thursday introduced legislation to protect employees who use medical marijuana from being disqualified for unemployment benefits.

House Bill 351, proposed by Rep. Mandy Landry (D-New Orleans), several members agreed to support the bill based on Rep. Landry’s promise to find a compromise with the Louisiana Legislative Association. , barely passed the committee by a vote of 6 to 5. Business and Industry (LABI).

Landry said he introduced the bill because the state failed to protect consumers despite legalizing medical marijuana and regulating growers and sellers.

“Once Louisiana residents bought the product, consumers lost their jobs and had no money to buy products that the state claimed to be legal … The government’s inefficiency in selling marijuana is extremely disappointing. There’s a strange circulation here,” said Mr. Landry.

Landry was also joined by Congressmen Joe Marino and Ai Gretna during the bill’s introduction. Marino, chairman of the state medical marijuana board, persuaded Landry to stop the voluntary postponement of the bill. Instead, they promised to work on the bill before it goes to a vote in the House of Representatives.

The bill was amended by committee to remove provisions that provided protection for workers’ compensation claims. Even without these provisions, LABI had concerns.

LABI member Wayne Fontana told the committee, “The text of the bill states that eligible medical cannabis patients who receive a referral must not be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.” . “That means that if someone becomes disabled and is fired as a result of hurting themselves or others, they will still be able to receive unemployment benefits.”

Landry characterized these concerns as misleading.

“I’m not trying to enact a law that people can throw stones at work because that’s crazy,” Landry said.

Rep. Larry Freeman (R-Avita Springs), a workers’ compensation attorney, also opposed the bill. Freeman agreed there are issues affecting medical marijuana users in the workplace, but said there was no solution.

“If I had known the answer to the question, I would have suggested an amendment to the committee to fix it,” Freeman said in an interview. “It’s going to take a lot of time to get labor lawyers and businesses and all the other experts at the table to understand how this works.”

Landry’s bill builds on her previous work on labor protections for medical marijuana users. In 2022, she sponsored a proposal to protect state employees from dismissal and protect future employees from discrimination for legal medical marijuana use.

Landry last year set up a task force to investigate medical marijuana use and make recommendations to protect workers. The committee approved a series of recommendations, most of which were opposed by the LABI representative of the research committee.

This story was first published by the Louisiana Illuminator.

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