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Louisiana House Backs Medical Marijuana Expansion

April 13, 2018
(DenisTangneyJr/iStock)
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers are moving to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, as the product nears availability within months.

The House voted 60-39 Thursday to add more conditions to the list of diseases and disorders eligible for marijuana treatment. Rep. Ted James’ proposal would include glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease on that list.

Also pending on the House floor is a bill seeking to remove the January 2020 expiration date of the state's medical marijuana law.

separate measure by Harvey Rep. Rodney Lyons that won earlier House passage would allow medicinal-grade pot for autism spectrum disorder.

Both proposals await Senate debate.

Supporters say therapeutic marijuana could help veterans suffering from PTSD and others with severe medical conditions, rather than steering them to addictive opioids.

“We’ve got a lot of vets who don’t want to take drugs, the heavy drugs,” said Rep. Kenny Cox, a Natchitoches Democrat and retired Army officer.

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Opponents said lawmakers should wait until the medical marijuana program begins before expanding eligibility.

“I just wonder if we’re not jumping the gun,” said Rep. Scott Simon, an Abita Springs Republican. “We’re heading that way and we’re heading that way fast. My only concern is that we’re swapping out one addictive drug for another.”

James, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, said marijuana is not addictive. He said Louisiana residents have described traveling out of state or permanent moving elsewhere to get therapeutic cannabis for treatment of medical conditions.

“If we can prolong life and ease pain for one young person, one senior with this bill, I think we’re headed in the right direction,” James said.

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Louisiana’s medical marijuana program is just getting organized, with plans to have the product available to patients by the summer.

Current state law, passed in 2015 under former Gov. Bobby Jindal and tweaked again in 2016 under Gov. John Bel Edwards, allows use of medicinal cannabis for people with cancer, a severe form of cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy and other specific diseases. Marijuana can be available in medicinal oils, pills, sprays and topical applications, but cannot be sold in a form that can be smoked.

Only the agricultural centers at LSU and Southern University are allowed to grow medicinal-grade pot, overseen by the state agriculture department. Both schools have selected vendors to run the growing operations and are working through their start-up.

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A handful of doctors have applied for and received permission to dispense medical marijuana once it’s available. The Board of Pharmacy hasn’t yet selected the dispensing pharmacies.

Forty-six states have legalized some form of medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Also pending on the House floor is a third bill dealing with Louisiana’s program, by Houma Rep. Tanner Magee, seeking to remove the January 2020 expiration date of the state’s medical marijuana law.

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  • Metal Tiger

    as is too often , state lawmakers throw baby out with bath water IE , long time marijuana users are ignored as a knowledge resource and after the state having an unjust war against harmless tokers , no apologies , just continued contempt toward us / tokers remain subject to unjust punishment , ruinous actions against our family life and employment opportunities , all because of misguided notions of moral crusaders and the effects of protection of profits of competing products / looks like I will be in my grave before Louisiana lawmakers do the right thing https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8cdc403aa42d17103a5543996cf3b9e959ab167ba4500fad7bbb5116bf7145b2.jpg

  • Metal Tiger

    by the way , we tokers have enjoyed the medical benefits of marijuana over the last 7 decades , in defiance of misguided government efforts , while those too timid to defy unjust laws have not had the opportunities to benefit from use of marijuana . . . so who is the “war on marijuana” against ? . . . every citizen
    I’ve lived with a neck / shoulder pain problem for decades which no other pain relief has helped very much , while marijuana does help a great deal , smoked marijuana , that is / better wording of quote below would be “selectively enforced” ;/) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a56e2e7e7393a2d7ed4f548302369cd45180bb3b5b76d65e0e34e9d563b354e6.jpg

  • Kween

    I wish Louisiana would extend the medical conditions for marijuana. The bipolar disorder , that so many of us suffer from, is one I believe should be added to the list. I’ve taking almost every different bipolar medications there is and they only make me sadder or cause me not to want to eat or even drink, which only add new problems. I’ve also lost my hair from uses this medicine. I’ve read that marijuana is good for people with depression and even bipolar disorder. By legalizes this it could help tremendously with allot of people.

  • Johnson