BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana House’s health committee approved a bill Wednesday, May 1 that would loosen regulations on the state’s medical marijuana program so certain patients could use medical marijuana inhalers.
The first batch of medicine made from marijuana is expected to be available for Louisiana’s sickest patients at the end of May. It will be available in a dropper, which is the primary way the medicine will be delivered during the initial phases of the roll-out.
Current law explicitly forbids inhaling marijuana medicine. Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, filed a cleanup bill which eliminates that restriction, corrects some language in state law, and loosens mostly inconsequential regulations on doctors. The Health and Welfare Committee approved the bill without objection.
It takes longer for medicine delivered through pills or liquid to enter the bloodstream, meaning patients may have to wait through pain for their medicine to kick in.
“Waiting 30 minutes to two hours can be an excruciatingly long time,” Baton Rouge marijuana physician, Dr. Victor Chou, said. "On the other hand, inhalation delivers results within 30 to 60 seconds.”
The inhaler would have to be metered, like a typical asthma inhaler, so patients know the appropriate dose and how much they’ve taken. Medicine would still be recommended by a doctor and those recommendations would be filled by one of the state’s nine licensed pharmacists.
Patients will not have access to the raw plant material. Some experts say Louisiana’s medical marijuana program has the potential to be the best in the nation.
A number of potential marijuana patients testified in favor of the bill, including several combat veterans who told lawmakers about their troubles with PTSD.
“There is no pill you can take, there is nothing you can do that is going to help you get immediate relief, other than reaching for an inhaled form of medical cannabis," Cannabis for Warriors head and retired Army soldier, Izaak Thibodeaux, said.
Some people representing law enforcement and religious organizations opposed the bill, fearing that expanding the program before a single patient has taken any medicine is irresponsible.
The bill now heads to the House floor for debate.