Medical Marijuana Bill Clears Louisiana Senate Committee

When the Louisiana state legislature passed a limited medical marijuana bill in 1991, it made a promise to the state’s infirm; and for decades that promise has been deferred by fear, ignorance and empty words. Now, more than 20 years later, a bill has been introduced into the state legislature to fulfill that promise and that bill has just cleared a major legislative hurdle.

The bill, known as SB 143 in the Senate and HB 6 in the House, was unanimously approved by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, due in part mostly to concessions made to the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. As in many states considering marijuana reform, the Sheriffs’ Association initially came out against the bill and in turn offered up a version of the bill which they would support.

Under the LSA’s guidelines, medical marijuana would be controlled by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, grown by the Department of Agriculture, tracked through NPlex like ephedrine, and only available through state approved pharmacies. Medical marijuana would only be allowed in oil form and would only treat those suffering from glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and certain forms of cancer.

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Fred Mills, more or less rewrote the bill to conform to those standards. Although it is regrettable that Mills would acquiesce to law enforcement, the bill would have most certainly died without the changes.

“I am so thankful to everyone who helped pass Senate Bill 143 out of Senate Health and Welfare this morning,” Mills told The Advertiser. “It is my hope that people who can medically benefit from this medication will have that right.”

The bill will now go on to the House, where it is expected to get a much rosier reception than it did the first time around. With tacit support from law enforcement, it will be very hard to employ the same tired tactics that often stymie other marijuana reform bills. However, that does not mean it will not meet resistance.

One organization that is not sold on the matter is the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association. Pete Adams, the head of the LSDAA, told the Insurance Journal that unless medical marijuana gets approved by the FDA, his organization will not support medical marijuana.

“Our position is pretty simple: We believe that most of the arguments for it are anecdotal,” Adams said. It is cruelly ironic that a man who makes a living imprisoning people based off of testimony would not accept a medicine based off of that same evidentiary threshold. However, it does help explain why Louisiana is considered the world’s prison capitol.

If passed by the Senate and House, this bill will do little in the way of establishing a medical marijuana industry as we know it. However, it does present an interesting new model when it comes to medical marijuana. Though many may eschew the pharmacy model, it is easy to see how the industry could move towards that model once marijuana eventually loses its schedule I status.

Will the pharmacy model become the future of the medical marijuana industry? Maybe, maybe not; however, it is an interesting approach that hopefully helps those most in need. Otherwise, we will be stuck with a do-nothing bill that will be harder to repeal than it was to pass.

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