A Louisiana Senate panel on Wednesday advanced legislation that could pave the way for the use of marijuana to treat some ailments.
Louisiana legalized medical marijuana in 1991, but the state has never established a mechanism for its distribution.
As one doctor testifying Wednesday put it: It is legal for doctors to prescribe medicinal marijuana here and it’s legal for patients to use it when prescribed, but there’s no process for dispensing.
After a year of working on a proposal that addresses concerns raised by law enforcement, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee signed off Wednesday on Senate Bill 143, which would set up that mechanism. It now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
The legislation, if approved, would direct the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules regulating the production and dispensing of prescribed marijuana by December 2016.
Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association, said the proposed bill “takes care of a lot of our concerns,” but he still spoke in opposition to it.
“The fact is, while marijuana might be nice to smoke, it hasn’t scientifically been proven as a treatment,” he said, though he noted that he would work with Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks and the bill’s sponsor, as the legislation progresses this session.
Several people with various ailments — not all of them covered under Mills’ proposal — told the committee how they believed medicinal marijuana would help them and others.
Matthew Duhon, who suffers from epilepsy, said his prescription drug cocktail he currently takes is slowly poisoning his liver, in addition to other side effects.
“I don’t want to die young,” he said. “It scares me.”
Michele Hall held up a bag filled with bottles of pills that she has to give twice a day to her 4-year-old daughter, Ella Grace, who suffers from epilepsy. The pills include risperidone and Prozac — and not in toddler-sized doses, she said.
“My baby takes this every single day — just to get through the day,” Hall said.
Hall and her husband adopted Ella Grace from Louisiana as an infant.
She’s been having painful, violent seizures for the past three years.
Ella Grace also has to take medicine to treat the acid reflux she has developed from taking her other medications. Then there’s the sleep apnea that came along after she gained 20 pounds in one year — a side effect of her prescription medicine routine.
After consulting a doctor in Colorado, Hall believes Ella Grace could be better treated with a small dosage of cannabis oil.
“They’ll start weaning her off all of this garbage,” Hall said, holding up the bag. “I’m just asking you to please consider what it is we are asking for.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.
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