Medical marijuana expansion bill heads to La. governor's desk

Medical marijuana expansion bill headed to governor's desk
Published: May. 16, 2016 at 8:59 PM CDT|Updated: May. 17, 2016 at 3:10 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill expanding access to medical marijuana is on its way to the governor's desk.

The Senate approved the bill along with its amendments from the House Monday afternoon with a vote of 22-14.

SB 271, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, would increases the number of diseases, including those that cause seizures, that can be legally treated by medical marijuana in Louisiana.

Importantly, SB 271 allows physicians to recommend the drug rather than prescribe it. Mills told lawmakers that because federal law still lists no medical use for marijuana, prescribing the Schedule I drug could put a doctor's license at risk.

Under the bill, LSU and Southern would have the right of first refusal to grow the state-sanctioned marijuana, and only 10 pharmacies could distribute it statewide. The universities would have to decide by September 1.

The measure faced a battle from some law enforcement, including the Louisiana Sheriff's Association (LSA), who feared it could open the door for illegal drug use and lead to the eventual legalization of recreational pot.

"Our association is concerned with creep, folks. Where do we go from here? We'll be back next year. Because next year we want the smokable marijuana to help these patients," said Mike Stone with the LSA when testifying in front of a House committee.

There were some amendments added to the bill when it advanced out of the House committee on May 3. One would eliminate Glaucoma as an accepted, treatable disease, while another said that if the FDA approves another drug for treatment, it would be given priority over marijuana by physicians.

On May 11, the House passed the bill with a 62-31 vote. Because of the amendments, the bill was sent back to the Senate for approval.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign the bill.

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