Louisiana: Bills Facilitating Expanded Cannabis Access Sent to Governor’s Desk

House and Senate lawmakers have approved a series of bills to facilitate patients’ access to medical cannabis products.

On Sunday, legislators finalized HB 819, which expands the discretion of physicians so that they can recommend cannabis therapy for “any condition” that he or she “considers debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified through his [or her] medical education and training to treat.” Under the current law, doctors may only recommend medical cannabis products to those patients with a limited number of select conditions, such as HIV and cancer.

Commenting on the measure, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “This is common sense legislation that provides physicians, not lawmakers, the ability and discretion to decide what treatment options are best for their patients. Just as doctors are entrusted to make decisions with regard to the supervised use of opioids 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.”

If signed into law, Louisiana will join a handful of other states — such as California, Maine, and Virginia –- that have enacted similar measures providing physicians with the ability to recommend medical cannabis preparations to any patient who they believe may benefit from them.

House and Senate lawmakers also approved House Bill 418, which provides immunity from prosecution to “any facility that is licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health that has patients in its care using medical marijuana.” Legislators also approved HB 211, which seeks to encourage banks and other financial institutions to provide services to state-licensed medical cannabis businesses.

All three measures now await action from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

State lawmakers enacted a limited medical cannabis access law in 2016. However, the program did not become operational until last year.