Louisiana has had a medical marijuana law on the books for 24 years, but no one’s been able to use it because of a lack of rules and regulations.
On Monday night, the Louisiana Senate endorsed legislation to rectify that stumbling block.
The Senate voted 22-13 for Senate Bill 143 would regulate medical marijuana dispensing and cultivation in Louisiana for use in treatment of glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
“Vote yes for patients for whom this really would be a last-ditch effort,” said state Sen. Fred Mills, R-St. Martinville.
Similar legislation Mills sponsored died last year in committee amid opposition from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. This year, the sheriffs group helped craft SB143 to eliminate law enforcement concerns and the committee endorsed the measure.
Under the legislation, the state Board of Medical Examiners, the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry would have different roles in developing the rules, regulations and licensing.
The therapeutic marijuana could only be dispensed at 10 pharmacies in the state. All of the therapeutic marijuana would be cultivated at one licensed location.
“I think we have found the sweet spot between patient care and also law enforcement,” Mills said.
Several senators underscored that they were not voting to legalize medical marijuana — that had been done by the Legislature in 1991.
Mills stressed that senators were voting to establish rules to what’s already approved. “If we don’t do this, it could be the wild, wild West,” he said.
Senators approved an amendment under which the authorization would be subject to sunset in 2020.
State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Marksville, said the provision will allow legislators to come back and review the situation to see if it’s working as intended or being abused by “folks just buying marijuana.”
“I want to make sure we have not seen an explosion in the number of people with glaucoma or any of these other illnesses requiring this kind of treatment,” LaFleur said.
State Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, questioned whether medical marijuana has been deemed effective by the federal Food and Drug Administration in the treatment of the illnesses.
Mills said the subject is under clinical study but he said he knows of personal stories where patients have seen positive results.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.