Louisiana News

Louisiana lawmakers act on concealed carry, medical marijuana, transgender athletes

(The Center Square) – The Louisiana House voted overwhelmingly to allow state residents to carry a concealed firearm without a permit or training.

The bill has passed the House and Senate, though the Senate now will review the House’s changes. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who generally supports gun rights, opposes the bill.

Senate Bill 118 by Sen. Jay Morris, a West Monroe Republican, would apply to adults who are at least age 21 and have not been convicted of a felony or violent crime. His bill retains the prohibition against carrying a concealed gun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Concealed carriers still would be required to disclose they have a weapon and submit to a search when asked by law enforcement, which would have the right to disarm the carriers.

Supporters of the change argue law-abiding citizens have a constitutional right to carry concealed weapons unless there is a compelling reason to stop them from doing so. Opponents argue requiring training and a permit to carry a concealed firearm is an appropriate safeguard for the public that falls under the Second Amendment’s call for a “well regulated Militia.”

In other legislative action Thursday:

• The Louisiana Senate voted to allow patients with a doctor’s recommendation to smoke marijuana for medical reasons.

Medical cannabis is legal in Louisiana but smoking the raw plant is not part of the medical marijuana program. While most states have legalized medical cannabis, Louisiana and Minnesota don’t allow smokeable marijuana, according to Rep. Tanner Magee, the Houma Republican who authored House Bill 391.

Patients would be limited to 2.5 ounces every 14 days. The change would go into effect Jan. 1.

The Senate vote for final passage was 23-14 after adoption of technical amendments. The bill returns to the House for approval of the changes.

Magee’s House Bill 514 would dedicate tax revenue from medical marijuana sales to road construction, early childhood education and legal services for defendants who can’t afford to hire attorneys. The full Senate approved that bill Wednesday, but not before picking up a hitchhiker in the form of a permanent extension of a temporary sales tax, which led to redirecting the bill to the Senate Finance Committee for a hearing on the change.

• The House voted, 78-17, for Senate Bill 156 to block transgender athletes from competing in girls’ sports. The vote totals in both chambers would be enough to override Edwards’ expected veto.

Supporters frame the bill, which is similar to others being passed or considered nationwide, as a way to protect “biological girls” from unfair competition.

“Biological males are faster, stronger and bigger,” said Rep. Laurie Schlegel, R-Jefferson. “Let’s protect our girls.”

Opponents said they are worried about further marginalizing youths who already are at increased risk of suicide. Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, said it could open the door to abusive adults who would take it as permission to “check” an athlete’s gender.

“This is a discriminatory bill,” said Rep. Aimee Freeman, also a New Orleans Democrat. “It discriminates against our most vulnerable children.”

• The House Education Committee advanced without objection Senate Bill 60, which seeks to let college athletes make money “commensurate with the market value” from their name, image and likeness without losing their eligibility. Among other limitations, schools and boosters would be prohibited from using the compensation as a recruiting tool or as direct payment for competing in a sport.

Sen. Patrick Connick, the Marrero Republican who authored the bill, said 15 states have approved similar legislation and many others are considering doing so.

While star athletes in high-profile sports like football and men’s basketball likely could benefit, Jim Henderson, who leads the University of Louisiana system, said the change also would create opportunities for athletes in other college sports who have a limited window to capitalize on their exposure.

“This is a bill that’s about students,” he said.

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