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May 15, 2018, Louisiana
Louisiana legislature has passed two bills that will increase the number of qualifying health conditions for the use of medical marijuana. The intended changes will come into effect this summer. Let’s delve into some of the details of the two bills that will soon expand the state’s medical marijuana program.
The first bill (House Bill 579) was presented in the House of Representatives in March. The bill entails the addition of muscle spasm, post-traumatic stress disorder, glaucoma and Parkinson’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions. After being discussed in the House for several days, it was passed by a vote of 60-40 last month. Subsequently, it was moved to the Senate where it received more support than the House and approved by a vote of 25-9.
Another measure has also been passed by the Senate that adds Autism to the list of qualifying conditions. House Bill 627 was also presented on the floor in March and passed by the legislative body in April by a margin of 71-21. Now, a concurrent vote will be held on Wednesday and then both bills will go the governor’s desk for the final approval.
It is worth mentioning that Louisiana passed its medical cannabis law nearly 40 years ago. However, it didn’t provide any noteworthy relief to the patients. Moreover, the doctors who prescribed MMJ under this law had to face the cancellation of their practicing license from the federal administration.
In 2016, the state lawmakers iron out the loopholes of the program with the Senate bill 271. This bill first time introduced a list of qualifying medical conditions for the administration of medical cannabis. This list included several debilitating medical conditions in the program. Cachexia, epilepsy, seizures, muscular dystrophy, HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease were the initial health conditions for which patients could get their state-issued medical marijuana cards.
Katie Corkern, a mother of an ailing child suffering from epilepsy, lobbied extensively to make the Senate Bill 271 a success. MMJ program of the state only allows CBD oils with no or low traces in the form of topicals and pill. Patients are not permitted to consume MMJ through smoking, neither can they grow their own medical strains through domestic cultivation.
Even with these restrictions, the legislation of 2016 was a major improvement on what had been there before. The face of the campaign, Katie Corkern, also showed his satisfaction on the provisions added by the lawmakers to the program.
Aside from expanding the MMJ bill by adding more qualifying conditions, the state is also trying to increase the domestic yield of cannabis to fulfill its medical needs. Currently, Southern University (SU) and Louisiana State University (LSU) are responsible to provide domestic strains for the production of MMJ products. LSU already has a 27,000 sq.ft cultivation area that would provide its first batch of the crop by September. On the other hand, SU is constructing its growing site and will be able to harvest its first crop in the first quarter of 2019.