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HOW TO KILL AN INDUSTRY / Sen. Thomas Pressly

Senator Thomas Pressly, Shreveport, pre-filed SB 237 to require continued reporting on industrial hemp farming in Louisiana by the Department of Agriculture. His bill, as pre-filed, would have little impact on the fast growing hemp industry in Louisiana but was on most industry leaders watch-list this session. Sen Pressly, as a state representative last year, attempted to place limits on consumable hemp products that would have put most Louisiana hemp manufacturers out of business and seriously impacted the sales of retailers across the state.

Without prior notification to industry stakeholders or publication for public review, Sen Pressly amended his bill in the Senate Agriculture committee yesterday, calling for a complete ban of any consumable hemp product that contains any amount of THC.

Citing challenges of enforcement of existing laws, supported by ATC Commissioner Legier, Sen Pressly convinced the committee to report his amended bill favorably out of the Senate Ag Committee. Sen Katrina Jackson-Andrews, Monroe, was the sole vote on the committee against the bill.

SB 237 can now be scheduled for a Senate vote. If the bill is approved by the Senate, it will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. If approved in the House, it will be sent to the Governor for his consideration.

Sen Pressly told industry leaders attending the committee hearing that he was a lawyer and that in his profession it is normal to "negotiate" issues and he expected to do so on his bill. He went on to state that most likely, neither he nor the industry will be happy with the outcome. Sen Pressly said he had met with some industry leaders and pledged to continue to meet with them and "negotiate" a final bill.

Jason Garsee, owner of 318 Labs, challenged Sen Pressly's assertion that hemp products with THC were recreational marijuana. Mr. Garsee went on to tell the committee that the current medical marijuana monopolies in the state seem to be fulfilling that role, noting that a person can make a phone call, get a medical marijuana card, and then buy marijuana from a Louisiana dispensary.

Garsee implored the committee to delay action on SB 237 for one week. Mr. Garsee said that he expected another hemp bill will be filled this week which will address 95% of the concerns over hemp legislation. He suggested that once the bill is filed, the committee will be in a better position to evaluate changes needed in current hemp laws.

Paige Melancon, President of the Hemp Association of Louisiana, shared his vision of the hemp industry in Louisiana as an economic powerhouse for farmers, manufacturers, and retailers. Explaining that the profits from consumable hemp product sales are funding research & development of animal feed, bio-degradable hemp plastics, and other products, Mr. Melancon pointed out that if the legislature bans hemp products, the revenue needed to build a Louisiana hemp industry will fail.

Sen Jackson-Andrews expressed concerns for Louisiana businesses that have invested millions in the industry. She is very concerned about children being allowed to purchase THC products and recognizes the economic value of the hemp industry in Louisiana.

Sen Cathey, a known opponent of the industry, asked Sen Pressly if he would commit to continuing negotiations with industry leaders before submitting his bill to the Senate for a vote. Dodging the direct question, Sen Pressly said he would commit to continuing to meet with the industry, but in typical lawyer fashion, he did not answer Sen Cathey's direct question as to whether he would hold off on asking the Senate to vote until industry leaders had a chance to "negotiate" with him.

To his credit, Sen Pressly made it clear that if it were up to him, consumable hemp products containing any amount of THC would be banned. While we may not agree with Sen Pressly, at least we know his intentions.

Sen Pressly's decision to hold the amendments secretly until the last minute did not sit well with the industry leaders in attendance. No one had notice, No one got a chance to review his amendments, and No one had time to prepare presentations regarding the ban.

And that's how you Kill an Industry, file a meaningless bill, wait until a committee hearing to amend, and convince your colleagues to vote in favor of your industry killing bill by not giving an opportunity for opposing interests to give the other side of the story.

Sen Pressly is a first year Senator, although he served in the House previously. He seems to have figured out how to move legislation through the process without giving effected businesses an opportunity to be heard. That is disappointing.

It's time to reach out to your state Senator & Representative and let them know your thoughts on killing an industry, losing jobs, losing tax revenue, and devastating Louisiana business owners who have invested millions in their businesses. Your Voice Counts! Call your Senator. Call your Representative. Be polite, Ask them to vote NO to SB 237.

Daryl Schouest

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Unknown member
Mar 27

Everybody knew SB 237 as filed was a Trojan Horse. If Pressly's zero THC amendment caught us off guard, then shame on us.

Our opponents are unmoved by arguments based on tax revenues and employment numbers. They profess to be free market capitalists, but this is a social issue to them. Reason and logic won't sway them.

I suggest we emphasize the improved quality of life our products provide for our customers at the retail level. Let them know our customers are their constituents. And, the general public overwhelmingly approves use of hemp products.

Unknown member
Mar 27
Replying to

We were aware that something was coming from Sen Pressly, we just didn't know what. Our lobbyists had met with him and asked for advance copies of his amendments. He decided to give it to us at the hearing, leaving little or no time to prepare for a response.

While it may appear the the fiscal impact of our industry fell on deaf ears in the committee hearing, except for Sen Jackson-Andrews, I can tell you that many other legislatures are concerned about the impact to the tax base as well as the impact to small business in Louisiana.

I do agree that we need to emphasize the benefits of the products and the importance of keeping them available. W…

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