Louisiana’s Expanded Medical Marijuana Laws

The state of Louisiana has actually had a medical cannabis bill for close to 40 years. However, due to the abysmal wording of the legalization document, not a single Louisiana citizen has had legal medical marijuana access to date. The bill was written in such a way as to only allow doctors to ‘recommend’ medical cannabis, not prescribe it. Even if doctors had been able to prescribe it, there were only three conditions a person could have to qualify them for access to unsmokable forms of cannabis; Cancer, Glaucoma, and Spastic Quadriplegia. And even if people living with these afflictions had received prescriptions, there are no certified pharmacies to fill the order! Altogether the bill was poorly thought out, worded, and implemented.

Thursday the 19th of 2016, Louisiana Gov, John Bel Edwards signed senate bill 271 into effect. Gov. Edwards went on to say “This is one of those bills that I believe will have a positive impact on people who need it the most.” The bill effectively expands Lousiana’s medical marijuana program. SB271 increases the list of conditions a patient must have to be eligible for the program. Previously there were only 3 eligible conditions for medical marijuana prescription, now the list is up to 10! Including, cancer, HIV/AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis. The bill goes on to outline realistic guidelines to provide patients in need with medical marijuana.

Regulating and setting up any medical cannabis system in a state is bound to take some time. Louisiana officials estimate that it could take up to 18 months for their new medical system to be fully implemented. As the bill does not allow for patients to cultivate their own medicine, the LA government will have to implement their own system of medical marijuana production.

The bill is actually only allowing for a single licensed marijuana grower. LA state university, as well as southern university, have both been offered the first opportunity to legally grow cannabis in their state. Both universities have until the first of September to either accept or decline this new mantle. If neither universities accept, the state will be forced to hire a private company to grow cannabis instead. The medical marijuana will then need to be processed into an unsmokable form and distributed to pharmacies. However, the bill only allows for 10 designated pharmacies to dispense medicinal cannabis. No word has yet to be given about how these 10 pharmacies will be chosen.

Unfortunately, this is all a moot point unless SB180 is passed. SB180 explicitly immunizes the program’s participants from state criminal prosecution. The bill has been pending for months, but a floor debate is scheduled to take place on may 25th, 2016.

Louisiana is now the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana and is currently the only southern state with a medical marijuana bill in place.

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