Louisiana legislature poised to expand access to medical marijuana
BATON ROUGE - Less than a year after medical marijuana became legally available in Louisiana, lawmakers were on the verge of expanding access for some patients who currently don't meet the requirements to obtain a physician's recommendation.
"It's legal now," Rep. Larry Bagley said. "There's no reason to restrict access and this was just to be sure that everybody could get it."
House Bill 819, sponsored by Bagley, has already passed the House of Representatives and will face the final passage in the Senate on Tuesday.
Right now, Louisiana has a long but tailored list of conditions that medical marijuana can be used to treat including cancer, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy. Under Bagley's bill, therapeutic cannabis could be used to treat 'any condition' a doctor 'considers debilitating to an individual patient.'
"If your doctor says 'let's try that, and I'll write this out for you, and we'll work it' why would that be a problem?" Bagley questioned. "It is up to the doctor. We trust them with everything else in our lives, this is just one more step."
Besides broadening the conditions, House Bill 819 would allow any doctor in good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to recommend therapeutic cannabis for their patients. Under current law, doctors have to be specifically licensed to recommend medical marijuana. LSBME's online portal says there are currently 139 active therapeutic cannabis registration permits across the state.
"Everybody has a doctor they can go to, even if you don't have a personal care physician," Bagley said. If that doctor thinks that medical marijuana will help you and you want to do that, now anyone can do that. Before, you had to go find a special doctor. If you were bedridden, you had to personally go down, physically go down and get a prescription, which was not going to happen to people who were bedridden or on hospice. That stops all that.
Bagley, who has previously voted against medical marijuana legislation, says that with medical marijuana already legal in Louisiana, the state shouldn't have so many restrictions, ultimately leaving the decision up to a doctor and their patient.
"I'm not going to out-vote a doctor," says Bagley. "I trust too many that take care of me."
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