Louisiana regulators consider upping medical cannabis patient limits for doctors

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Louisiana may boost the cap on the number of patients doctors can serve to avert potential bottlenecks in its medical marijuana program, a state official said this week.

Here’s some background on the situation:

  • The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) established a limit of 100 medical marijuana patients per physician in 2016, with doctors allowed to seek waivers for more.
  • The current patient limit combined with relatively low physician interest sparked concerns that patients will be stuck on waiting lists when the program starts late this year or early 2019.
  • Experts have warned that such medical restrictions also will jeopardize the economic viability of the program.

“We realize we’re going to have to increase that number,” said Vincent Culotta, executive director of LSBME, who added that the cap could be boosted at the panel’s September meeting.

Only 40 doctors submitted applications to recommend MMJ, and 23 have been approved so far.

If every doctor who has applied for a permit receives one, the current cap would limit the state to 4,000 patients, not counting exceptions allowed.

That’s far short of the population expected to seek MMJ. Culotta said one of the state’s two sanctioned marijuana growers anticipates the number will reach about 100,000 people.

The number of potential patients increased after state lawmakers earlier this year added qualifying conditions.

“The 100-patient limit – I hit that limit a month ago,” reported Dr. Victor Chou, who opened an MMJ clinic in Baton Rouge.

Chou said an average of five patients a day contact his clinic seeking medical cannabis. His waiting list has ballooned to 200-300. He’s requesting an exemption to add patients beyond the 100-person cap and supports raising the limit.

Doctors won’t issue a prescription but instead a “physician recommendation form,” a legal nuance aimed at keeping participants from jeopardizing their medical licenses because federal law prohibits prescribing marijuana.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily