BATON ROUGE, La. — Significantly more Louisiana residents will have access to medical marijuana under a major expansion of the state's therapeutic cannabis program that Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed into law.
The law changes take effect in August.
They'll allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any patient they believe it would help, and remove restrictions on which doctors can recommend cannabis.
The House and Senate agreed to the bill in the regular session that ended June 1. The House voted 75-16 for the measure, while the Senate agreed in a 28-6 vote.
The Democratic governor announced Monday evening that he had signed the bill into law.
In August 2019, Louisiana became the first Deep South state — and one of more than 30 states nationwide — to dispense medical marijuana, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access.
Louisiana already allows cannabis to treat diseases and disorders such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson's disease.
The proposal from Republican Rep. Larry Bagley authorizes therapeutic cannabis for any condition that a doctor "considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his medical education and training to treat."
Since starting the program, the state has grappled with the growing pains of a new medical market and a patient group that can't use health insurance to cover costs. Doctors and clinics say some patients are finding the cost for therapeutic cannabis too high for treatment, pricing them out of a medication they waited years to obtain.
Marijuana can be available in oils, pills, liquids, topical applications and an inhaler, such as that used by asthma patients — but not in a smokeable form.