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Will patients soon be able to smoke medical marijuana in Louisiana?



MONROE, La. – Louisiana patients could access smokable marijuana from the state’s nine cannabis pharmacies in a bill that cleared a House committee Thursday in what would be the biggest expansion to the medical program since weed first became available in 2019.

House Pro-tem Tanner Magee’s House Bill 391 sailed through the House Health and Welfare Committee on a 12-1 vote with little discussion. The only objection came from Rep. Robby Carter, a Democrat from Amite.

Magee and other advocates said the current products legally available — tinctures, topical creams, gummies and metered-dose inhalers — are too expensive for many patients.

“Most of the products aren’t covered by insurance,” said Magee, a Republican from Houma. “This is a way to provide a more affordable option.

“This is wildly popular in every corner of the state and it’s what people want and what people need.”

John Davis of Wellcana Group, one of the two authorized growers as partner with the LSU AgCenter, said the current products are costly because they require expensive equipment to process them.

Magee’s medical marijuana expansion has been gaining momentum since the Legislative Session started.

His companion bill (HB 514) that would apply state sales taxes to the raw marijuana product, or flower, has already passed the full House with a veto-proof 70 votes.

Magee ran his tax bill first as a trial balloon before presenting his bill to actually legalize the product. Currently, medical marijuana products aren’t subject to sales taxes. House Bill 514 would only tax the raw smokable form of the plant, not the tinctures and gummies already on the market.

Doctors can’t technically prescribed medical marijuana because it remains illegal federally. But Louisiana doctors can “recommend” medical marijuana for any condition they believe would benefit from the product.

Magee said if the Legislature doesn’t expand the product line to include the raw flower it would likely doom the state’s program because neighboring states Arkansas and Mississippi have already added the smokable form in their medical cannabis programs.

Long-time medical marijuana proponent Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches, a military veteran who was a hero during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, said medical marijuana can help save veterans from becoming hooked on opioids.

“Marijuana has been made out as the black sheep (for years) when it really wasn’t,” Cox said. “I pray this will help the opioid crisis and give us the opportunity to move forward.”

House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Larry Bagley, a Republican from Stonewall, said he has relatives whose pain can only be relieved through medical marijuana. “I have family members who couldn’t walk, but can now,” he said.

“In my district, which is very conservative, I sent out a mailout poll and 65% said they support any addition to medical marijuana,” Bagley said. “It’s all about making life better.”