BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Across Louisiana, supporters of medical marijuana use are celebrating a big victory as a bill medical marijuana bill cleared one of its final hurdles at the State Capitol. But not before a long and at times emotional debate.
Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, left the Capitol a happy man Thursday after a round of applause, followed by hugs and congratulations.
"I'm just so thrilled for the people over the years who have called me and they say listen, 'my daughter has epilepsy, my son has cancer,'" said Sen. Mills.
A pharmacist, Sen. Mills is behind an idea to create a medical marijuana pill to be taken by choice by cancer, glaucoma and cerebral palsy patients.
Medical marijuana use in Louisiana has been legal since 1991, but the state never created the mechanism for the regulated sale or use of the drug. You can get a prescription, but a pharmacist can't fill it.
"It's about easing the suffering of some of our friends, some of our constituents, some of our loved ones," said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans.
Rep. Moreno presented the measure to the full House Thursday. She says agriculture officials will pick the grower. There will be only one.
"We're going to establish the rules and how this is going to be done," said Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture.
And the pharmacy board will determine how it will be administered.
Rep. Moreno says it has the backing of law enforcement because it would be one the strictest medical marijuana laws in the country.
"THC levels will have be the lowest as possible. This isn't about anybody getting some type of euphoria. It's not about that. It's not about for recreation," said Rep. Moreno.
But for critics, there are concerns.
The bill has not been approved by the FDA and according to Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Livingston, "This is the first step to legalizing recreational marijuana."
Other lawmakers took the podium to share personal experiences. It was a difficult moment for Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge, remembering his brother who died of cancer.
"I miss my brother, please consider this," Rep. Huval said to the House.
Debate went on for two hours. The bill ultimately passed by a vote of 70-29. It now heads back to the Senate for one final look before going to Gov. Jindal's desk.
"I've been told by the Governor's Office... he would be more than happy to sign the bill," said Sen. Mills.
While supporters are celebrating Thursday's vote, district attorneys are not happy.
A statement provided to 9News from the state DA's Association reads in-part, "The states that have approved smoked or edible marijuana have experienced many of the predicted collateral problems that generate our concern. The most troubling of which is diversion of medical marijuana to illegal uses by adults and children."