Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Louisiana laws amended to make medical marijuana reform a functional reality

As reported in this local article, headlined "John Bel Edwards signs medical marijuana law," I think it is now proper to count Louisiana as a state that has now enacted real, functional broad medical marijuana reform.  Here are the basics:

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a landmark medical marijuana bill into law Thursday (May 19) that is expected to make medical marijuana available to patients for the first time in Louisiana history.

Edwards signed the bill during a ceremony on the fourth floor of the Capitol in front of key legislators who guided the bill to passage, First Lady Donna Edwards, and the families of children with conditions they believe can be treated with the drug.  Among those present were a family from Edwards' hometown of Amite who have a son that suffers from daily seizures and would qualify for the drug.

"This is one of those bills I believe will have a positive impact on the people that need it the most," Edwards said. "The state of Louisiana should not interpose itself between doctors and patients when the doctors believe they have a patient who will benefit from medical marijuana."

Although Edwards' signature marked a significant moment for dispensing medical marijuana, it will be some time before doctors could actually recommend the drug to patients and a pharmacy could dispense it.  By one estimate, it could take about 18 months, but if other states adopting medical marijuana legislation give any indication, it could take even longer.

Even so, advocates have said the legislation passed this session gives them hope that one day, family members could benefit from the drug and they won't have to make plans to move to states like Colorado where medical marijuana is available.  Edwards said the idea that families would move away from Louisiana to obtain a safe and legal product in other states was a driving force behind his support.

"It simply is unacceptable to tell parents of kids that if they want to make them available to the kids the medicine recommended by their doctors to achieve some better quality of life -- some reduction in pain -- that they should have to move," Edwards said.

As detailed in a post below from last year, Louisiana had passed a medical marijuana law in 2015 that required doctor "prescriptions" that made the reform essentially non-functional. This local story indicates the new law takes care of this problem and covers additional ground:

Senate Bill 271 changes the legal wording to allow doctors to recommend nonsmokable forms of medical cannabis to qualified patients.

The new law also expands the state’s list of medical marijuana qualifying conditions to include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, severe muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

The previous version of the law included just three qualifying conditions: glaucoma, cancer and spastic quadriplegia.

Prior related post from 2015:  Louisiana now with broadest (and least functional?) medical marijuana laws in South

Medical Marijuana State Laws and Reforms, Who decides | Permalink


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