Louisiana Set to Legalize Functional Medical Marijuana Program

Although medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana for nearly four decades, the language of the law has prevented anyone from gaining access to the herb. But that all stands to change now that the State Legislature has put its stamp of approval on a bill designed to amend this wording—giving doctors the freedom to provide patients with medical marijuana recommendations rather than prescriptions.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana House voted 61-to-32 in favor of legislation (Senate Bill 271) that would simply tweak an existing medical marijuana law to make it functional. The proposal, which was introduced by Senator Fred Mills, has been the subject of much debate this session, as lawmakers work to put a comprehensive medical marijuana law into action. It is now off to the Senate, which is expected to approve a slight change made by the House, before it gets sent to Governor John Bel Edwards for a signature. 

“We commend House members for approving this sensible and compassionate legislation,” David Brown, president of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana, told HIGH TIMES in a statement. “We hope the Senate will quickly concur. Many patients have been waiting a long time for this, and some can’t wait much longer.”

The bill would give patients suffering from debilitating medication conditions—including cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, severe muscle spasms, Crohn's disease, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis—the right to use cannabis products, as long as they have a recommendation from a doctor.

For years, the state’s medical marijuana law has remained useless because it forces doctors to “prescribe” marijuana—a violation of the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act.  However, the First Amendment protects those medical professionals who wish to provide their patients with a medical marijuana recommendation. Not only would this legislation fix the old law, but it would also open the door to a better program than the one signed last year by former Governor Bobby Jindal. 

Prior to the bill’s passage, the House heard opposing arguments from the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association and the Louisiana District Attorneys Association over concerns that putting this program into action would be a stepping-stone to turning the state into the Colorado of the South. However, lawmakers did not give the dispute much consideration after listening to the testimony of parents with children suffering from cancer and seizure disorders.

“Legal access to medical marijuana could dramatically improve my son’s life and the lives of countless other Louisiana patients,” said Katie Corkern, whose son, Conner, need medicinal cannabis for his seizure disorder. “Our family should not have to relocate to another state in order to access this potentially life-saving medical treatment. We are praying that the Senate will concur with the House bill, so Governor Edwards can sign it into law as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for the governor's office told the Advocate that as long as the bill gets through the State Legislature, it will be signed into law. 

(Image Courtesy of Scanvine)

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