Medical cannabis is currently legal in Louisiana, but the program is limited to only serve those with extreme medical conditions. Advocates and patients wanted to see it expanded, and now, thanks to a bill just signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards, this expansion is a reality for the people of Louisiana. 

Currently, the state has a list of conditions that are approved for medical cannabis, but it is limited to conditions that are considered severely debilitating, including Parkinson’s disease, cancer, PTSD, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other seizure disorders. Now that House Bill 819 has passed, any debilitating condition examined by a doctor could be eligible for treatment with medical cannabis. 

Support For HB 819

The House and Senate both supported the new bill, sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley, chairman of the House Health Committee. Bagley is a republican, and the bill received bi-partisan support in the regular session, which ended June 1. The House was in favor 75-16, and the senate passed it with a 28-6 vote. 

“It’s legal now,” Bagley said. “There’s no reason to restrict access and this was just to be sure that everybody could get it.”

The fact that Bagley, who has voted against medical cannabis in the past, backed this new bill confused some, but he claims that the state shouldn’t have as many restrictions now that cannabis is medically legal for patients to access. He thinks doctors are the best people to make decisions about medical cannabis, not legislators. 

The bill would also allow any doctor approved by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to prescribe cannabis to patients. There wouldn’t only be a certain set of “cannabis doctors” eligible to prescribe. Currently, only 139 doctors in Louisiana are actively able to prescribe cannabis. 

“If your doctor says ‘let’s try that, and I’ll write this out for you, and we’ll work it’ why would that be a problem?” Bagley questioned. “It is up to the doctor. We trust them with everything else in our lives, this is just one more step. Everybody has a doctor they can go to, even if you don’t have a personal care physician. If that doctor thinks that medical marijuana will help you and you want to do that, now anyone can do that. Before, you had to go find a special doctor. If you were bedridden, you had to personally go down, physically go down and get a prescription, which was not going to happen to people who were bedridden or on hospice. That stops all that.”

Currently in Louisiana, cannabis is available in all forms except smokeable form, and cannabis is grown by Louisiana State University and Southern University only. Those restrictions will remain in place under this new ruling. 

When this law goes into effect in August,  Louisiana will quickly go from one of the state’s with the strictest medical cannabis program to one of the most comprehensive medical states for treatment.

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