Legislation aimed at expanding Louisiana’s medical marijuana program cleared another hurdle Wednesday, as the bill was passed by the state Senate.

The bill, HB819, would 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,” essentially clearing the way for virtually any condition to be treated with marijuana.

Crucially, as the Monroe News-Star reported, the proposal would “remove the current restriction requiring physicians to go through an extra step to get specific approval to recommend marijuana.” The bill also adds nine specific conditions under which a physician in Louisiana can now prescribe medical cannabis to a patient.

The bill, brought by Republican state House Rep. Larry Bagley, passed out of the House by a whopping 76-15 vote earlier this month before getting approved by the Senate this week.

Lawmakers like Bagley said that too many patients in the state found the treatment to be painfully elusive.

“[Medical marijuana] is already law,” Bagley said during the committee debate, as quoted by the Monroe News-Star. “This just provides better access.”

Louisiana’s Medical Cannabis Program

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.

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