Gov. John Bel Edwards signs measure to expand medical accessibility of marijuana in Louisiana _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Elizabeth Crisp -- Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signs medical marijuana legislation on Thursday, May 19, 2016.

Louisiana residents suffering from certain health ailments may soon have access to cannabis oil treatment, under a new law Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law Thursday.

Senate Bill 271, which the governor signed during a formal ceremony featuring families in his Capitol office, is intended to expand the medical accessibility of marijuana by expanding the ailments that can be treated through its use and tweaking language to allow doctors recommend it for their patients more easily.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana for more than two decades, but no one’s been able to legally use it because the state didn’t establish a framework for the distribution or cultivation of the plant, which remains a Schedule I narcotic on the federal level.

The new law will allow people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, wasting syndrome, seizure disorders and spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis to seek a doctor’s “recommendation” for non-intoxicating cannabis oil treatment, rather than “prescription” to skirt federal pot laws.

“This is one of those bills that I believe will have a positive impact on people who need it the most,” Edwards said.

Critics have said they are concerned that the expansion of medical marijuana could lead to the legalization or expanded illegal use of recreational pot.

Edwards said he’s comfortable that the law he signed won’t lead to such “creep.”

“We’re not gonna have a slippery slope where it becomes a medicine recommended for every ailment out there,” he said. “It’s carefully crafted, but it’s meaningful.”

Under the new legislation, marijuana can be taken only as an oil, such as in a liquid, tablet or suppository. It doesn’t legalize smoked marijuana in any cases.

At least 23 other states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. A few have gone so far as to legalize its recreational use.

Edwards was surrounded by families of children with medical conditions that can now be treated with medical marijuana and legislators who have spent the past several years pushing for the passage of such a bill.

“You wonder why you run for office, and I think today shows why we all run for office,” said Sen. Fred Mills, a Parks Republican who sponsored the bill.

Several lawmakers spoke of receiving dozens — some even hundreds — of calls and emails from parents who wanted the option to treat their children with cannabis oil.

Edwards said that’s what helped him decide to support the legislation. First lady Donna Edwards had joined Amite resident and medical marijuana advocate Katie Corkern during several committee hearings on the bill. Corkern’s son, Connor, suffers from a rare seizure disorder.

The governor gave pens that he used to sign the new law to the Corkerns and other families who have spent several weeks lobbying in favor of the bill.

“It was probably, for me, the biggest victory I’ve felt this session,” said Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans. “This is making a true difference in people’s lives.”

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.

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