NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – It is now up to Governor John Bel Edwards to decide if doctors in Louisiana will be able to prescribe raw, smokable medical marijuana for their patients. A bill to expand the medical marijuana program in the state has won final approval in the legislature.
At H&W Drug Store Dispensary medical marijuana projects have been sold since the state gave the green light several years ago and in a matter of months, the list of products could expand because of House Bill 391.
Longtime pharmacist Ruston Henry owns H&W Drug Store Dispensary.
“We actually started with only three products, so they are continuously adding more products to it, so this is just going to be another addition to the other formulary that we have in place,” he said.
State Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma authored the legislation. He says it is a way to give patients a more affordable medical marijuana option.
“We constantly heard stories of people who had end of cancer, terminal cancer going through a lot of pain, or they have some sort of condition and they’re having to try and pay. It’s not covered by insurance usually, so they’re having to pay exorbitant prices,” said Magee.
Henry says costs for some products were a hindrance for some patients early on.
“One of the impediments was at the price, so raw flower is easier to process, it’s cheaper,” he said.
Dr. Julie Johnson is with Louisiana Medical Marijuana Doctors, LLC.
“I think it’s wonderful for the patients of Louisiana, it’s going to afford them more product to choose from,” she said.
Johnson says recommendations for medical marijuana are carefully made.
“We go through the patient’s history thoroughly with them, ask what they have been on the past, what medications they’ve tried for certain conditions and no, it is not cavalier at all. People have to meet certain requirements before they get a recommendation for cannabis,” Johnson stated.
Henry says pharmacists receive what is akin to a prescription for patients.
“It’s a recommendation slash prescription that has to be sent in by the physician,” he said.
Products already allowed in the state include cannabis in liquids, inhalers, edible gummies, and topical applications.
“We’re trying to be competitive with hydrocodone, all these other highly- addictive kind of heroin-Esque pain medicine,” Magee stated.
It would be up to doctors to decide whether smokable marijuana is suitable for their patients.
“This issue there is that the doctor and the patient have that discussion. It’s not the purview of I think the legislature to decide what is best for raw; we don’t know each specific condition, but I mean I think there probably are situations depending on the age, depending on all the different factors that the tincture may still be the best product for you but that’s more of a consultation with a doctor,” said Magee.
Johnson says there is already a demand for smokable medical marijuana in the state.
“Some patients don’t like to smoke, some patients don’t like the vape pen, they prefer an edible, or they prefer a tincture but on the other hand there’s many patients that do prefer the smokable form,” she said.
And Rep. Magee says the current regulatory measures would remain in place for raw medical marijuana.
“Nothing changes under the original concept of medical marijuana program that we have; the difference is just what they’re allowed to sell,” Magee stated.
He thinks Governor John Bel Edwards is on board with the proposed expansion of the state’s medical-marijuana program.
“Yes, I fully believe he’s going to sign it into law,” said Magee.
The proposed changes will take effect in January if the legislation becomes law.
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