With Louisiana poised to become to the 25th state in the US to legalize medical marijuana, the US hits an important milestone. Half of all US states have now legalized marijuana.
The Louisiana Senate voted in concurrence with the House on Monday regarding a measure aimed at creating a functioning medical marijuana law out of legislation that has been on the books for over forty years.
The proposal is now on its way to the desk of Governor John Bel Edwards, where the word on the street is that he will sign it into law without hesitation.
The bill, which was introduced by Senator Fred Mills, dusts off an existing medical marijuana law that was passed in the 1970s — one that never got off the ground because the language of the law forces doctors to cross the boundaries of the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act by prescribing medical marijuana rather than offering recommendations. Yet with a few strokes of a pen, Senate Bill 271 eliminates the word “prescribe” and replaces it with more appropriate vernacular that allows physicians to exercise their First Amendment right by providing patients with a certification that gives them legal access to weed.
Under the law, patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions – including cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, severe muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis – would have access to cannabis products as long as they have permission from a doctor.
Unfortunately, no smokable marijuana would be permitted, and patients will not have the freedom to engage in home cultivation.
Earlier this month, Governor Edwards told reporters that while he would not support legislation aimed at legalizing weed for recreational purposes, he doesn’t want to stand in the way of parents providing sick children with a medication that has been shown to effectively treat a number of serious conditions.
“I, quite frankly, think the state ought not be between the doctor and parents on what’s best for those children,” he said.
The Louisiana Sherriff’s Association (LSA) has come out heavily against the bill, saying that allowing cannabis oil production will lead to full legalization.
Mike Stone with the LSA testified before House members that approving a new medical marijuana law meant, “We’ll be back next year… because next year we want the smokable marijuana to help these patients.”
Nevertheless, both the upper and lower chambers ultimately ignored the cries of law enforcement – pushing the bill forward, without any issue, after listening to the testimony of parents with children suffering from a variety of serious and life threatening conditions.
Once the Governor signs the bill, which is expected, it could still take the state as long as 18 months, maybe longer, to launch the program.