LOUISIANA - Louisiana patients could soon have access to smokable medical marijuana after a bill cleared the house committee last week.
The bill would be the largest expansion to the state’s medicinal marijuana program since it became available in 2019.
Under Louisiana’s current medicinal marijuana program, patients can consume the plant in the form of tinctures, topical creams, inhalers and gummies. State representative and Speaker Pro-Tem, Tanner Magee, who authored the bill, explains why he felt this expansion is needed and how it will help patients.
"Right now, the current program only produces really expensive medication that’s typically not covered by insurance, so people that want it, only affluent people can purchase it," Magee said.
With neighboring states like Arkansas and Mississippi expanding or planning to expand their own medicinal marijuana programs, Magee says not doing the same in Louisiana would put a dent in the program.
"Really what we would be doing with us only having expensive products out there. We would be killing our program and our residents would be leaving our state to go buy it in Arkansas and Mississippi," he said.
Jacob Irving was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegia at birth and became an advocate for medicinal marijuana during his time in college. That’s when he had the opportunity to visit Colorado and try the raw form of the plant.
"I just found it so much better than the other drugs I had been taking for muscle spasticity that it made me really passionate and it’s really important to make sure it’s available not only to people like me but kids who are going to be in the same situation I was," Irving said.
Magee’s bill has widespread support from his colleagues but to those who oppose the bill, he simply says consider the alternative.
"The alternative is opioids, it's hydrocodone, it's a highly addictive medication that’s been so destructive in people’s lives that this is really a cheaper alternative, less destructive prescription that’s available," Magee said.
Unlike the current bill on recreational marijuana use, Magee’s bill would not need approval from Louisiana voters but rather a signature from the governor.
The bill is expected to make its way to the house floor in the coming weeks.