Louisiana Close to Legalizing Medical Marijuana, With Big Unknowns

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Louisiana appears poised to legalize some form of medical marijuana sales, but it’s unclear what potency levels the state would permit, and advocates say the entire program could prove to be unworkable.

A bill that would allow the sale of non-smokeable forms of cannabis through up to 10 dispensaries statewide sailed through the state House on Thursday. It now heads back to the Senate, which already passed a previous version of the bill and must sign off on changes made in the House.

If that happens, the measure will move to the desk of the state’s governor, who has already indicated he will sign such legislation.

Under the bill, up to 10 licensed dispensaries could set up shop across Louisiana to sell MMJ oils and pills to registered patients with glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

The state would license just one cultivation site, giving first dibs to Louisiana State University and Southern University Ag Centers, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The House, however, added an amendment that would only allow medical cannabis with “the lowest acceptable therapeutic level (of THC) available through scientifically accepted methods.” So it could be more along the lines of the very limited CBD-focused programs many other states are setting up, depending on how lawmakers interpret that language.

Perhaps more concerning, the bill would also require doctors to write prescriptions for medical cannabis rather than recommend it, which could potentially render the entire program ineffective.

Critics have assailed a bill in Texas to legalize CBD oils that includes similar language, saying doctors are not legally allowed to prescribe medical cannabis (though they can recommend it).

If the bill passes, a state medical board would have the authority to recommend adding specific ailments to the program, with the initial deadline for suggestions set for 60 days before the next legislative session begins, according to the Picayune.

Different agencies would oversee various aspects of the program, with the state’s pharmacy board setting regulations for dispensaries and the agriculture department crafting rules for the cultivation operation.

The state actually legalized medical marijuana decades ago, but lawmakers never set up a system for distributing the drug.