NEW ORLEANS, LA (WAFB) -
The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners voted 8 to 1 Monday to begin eliminating the limit on the number of patients for which doctors can recommend therapeutic marijuana.
Doctors and patients alike expressed concern that the limit would stifle the program since, as of Monday, only 48 doctors had applied for a permit or license.
Under a best case scenario, less than 5,000 Louisianans would have their doctor’s permission to pursue marijuana treatment when the medicine becomes available in November. One doctor says the limit put the entire program on the brink of collapse.
The board set the cap in 2016 before the state legislature expanded the list of illnesses for which doctors can recommend marijuana as a treatment.
“I’m now competing with people who have chronic pain, or PTSD,” said Jacob Irving, a therapeutic marijuana patient. “There’s probably 100,000 patients with chronic pain in Louisiana. I’m one dude with spastic quadriplegia just trying to get my medication.”
Baton Rouge therapeutic marijuana doctor, Victor Chou, says removing the limit could encourage new doctors to apply for a permit because it no longer forces doctors to choose which patients receive treatment. He added it’s not economically viable for most doctors to limit themselves to 100 patients.
Chou says he met the cap within two weeks of opening his medical marijuana clinic. “I currently have a waiting list of over 700 patients,” he said. “I absolutely believe that the 100 patient limit is stifling access to this program.”
The board also removed a rule that forced marijuana patients to consult with their doctors every 90 days to continue receiving the medication.
Technically, the board could change its mind and reverse the decision to loosen marijuana restrictions because Louisiana’s program operates on a fine line. Federal regulations do not allow doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana, which is why Louisiana doctors order “recommendations.”
Medicinal marijuana is expected to become available for use in November.