Last week, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill that will allow Louisiana residents to get medical marijuana for any debilitating condition their doctors see fit. Sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley, the medical marijuana expansion bill significantly expands beyond the 14 specific medical conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis. As of August 1, patients will be able to purchase medical marijuana as long as they have a condition deemed by their doctor as debilitating.
Originally, the marijuana expansion bill would only have added traumatic brain injuries and concussions as qualifying conditions. However, it was amended in committee to include several other medical conditions as well as language stipulating that cannabis can be recommended for any medical condition that a doctor “considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his or her medical education and training to treat.”
“This is a common-sense legislation that provides physicians, not lawmakers, the ability and discretion to decide what treatment options are best for patients. Just as doctors are entrusted to make decisions with regard to the supervised use of opiates and other medicines, many of which pose far greater risks to patients than cannabis, the law should provide doctors with similar flexibility when it comes to recommending cannabis therapy to a bona fide patient,” says National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Deputy Director Paul Armentano.
Rep. Bagley had introduced a House-passed bill alongside the expansion legislation to allow delivery services, but he voluntarily withdrew it from Senate committee consideration. He stated that he believed the marijuana expansion bill would already allow cannabis products to be delivered to qualifying patients like other traditional pharmaceuticals. Whether regulators will agree with his interpretation of the law is unclear.
The governor also signed legislation that would protect banks, credit unions and other financial institutions that work with cannabis businesses from being penalized by state regulators as well as a bill to provide immunity from prosecution to doctors who recommend medical marijuana to their patients and “any facility that is licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health that has patients in its care using medical cannabis.”
Once the cannabis expansion bill takes effect, Louisiana will join a handful of states such as Maine, California, and Virginia that have enacted similar measures granting licensed doctors the ability to recommend medical cannabis as a treatment to any patient they believe has a qualifying condition.
Analysts say companies like Green Growth Brands Inc. (CSE: GGB) (OTCQB: GGBXF) would like to see the U.S. federal government also take more progressive steps on matters of marijuana.
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