Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a series of bills into law greatly expanding patients’ ability to access medical cannabis products.
Late last week, the Governor signed House Bill 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.
The new law takes effect on August 1, 2020. At that time, Louisiana will join a handful of other states — including 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.
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.”
The Governor also signed into law two additional measures, 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,” and House Bill 211, which encourages banks and other financial institutions to provide services to state-licensed medical cannabis businesses.
House Bills 418 and 211 also take effect on August 1, 2020.
State lawmakers enacted a limited medical cannabis access law in 2016. However, the program did not become operational until August of last year. Currently, fewer than 4,000 patients are registered to access medicinal cannabis products under the law.