Louisiana lawmakers advanced a pair of bills on Thursday that would significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

The separate legislation was passed out of a Louisiana state House committee will now   head to the full House chamber for a debate and vote. One bill aims to broaden the potential pool of eligible medical cannabis patients by permitting a physician to prescribe such a treatment to someone suffering from what the doctor “considers debilitating.” 

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program finally opened for business last year, with dispensaries opening after years of delays. 

The framework for the state’s program was first established in 2015, when then-Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a bill legalizing medical cannabis into law. But the law was beset by regulatory disagreements, leaving patients without access to cannabis. The law allows the treatment for patients with a wide range of diseases and conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In August, Louisiana agriculture and forestry commissioner Mike Strain announced that the agency had completed the final round of testing on cannabis that was produced by Louisiana State University and a contractor, GB Sciences, paving the way for the first crop of medical marijuana to hit shelves at dispensaries. 

A Timely Second Bill

Another bill passed out of committee Thursday by Louisiana lawmakers would allow for pharmacies and dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana to patients—a measure that has been implemented during the coronavirus pandemic in other states and cities where adult use and medical marijuana are legal. Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced temporary new rules last month that will allow medical marijuana patients to conduct deliveries and allow customers to pick up their orders curbside. Similar policy is being pursued in both Colorado and Illinois, as well. And last month, Delaware lawmakers announced their own new law allowing home deliveries for medical marijuana. 

Activists have highlighted the COVID-19 crisis as an impetus for greater delivery and curbside services in the cannabis industry.

“Legalizing cannabis delivery has incredible potential to combat this pandemic in a real and direct way, overnight,” Cannabis Against COVID founder Dave Sheldon said last month.

Introduce Yourself: Name, Company, Goals