Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign a bill Thursday to expand access to medical marijuana in Louisiana.
The governor revealed that plan and stressed other points on health care in Louisiana during the second episode of his monthly, hour-long radio show.
“I think the bill is carefully crafted so we don’t have creep,” Edwards said, citing a frequent concern over medical marijuana usage being a gateway to recreational pot use.
The Legislature gave final approval to Senate Bill 271 this week, following a hefty push from parents who say their medically fragile children will benefit from cannabis treatment.
The measure will expand the list of illnesses eligible for the treatment to include more ailments. It also will alter the method doctors assign the drug to patients from “prescribe” to “recommend” to get around a federal prohibition of prescribing marijuana, which is a Schedule One narcotic.
Edwards told the caller who wanted to know his views on marijuana legislation that he doesn’t support efforts to legalize recreational marijuana in Louisiana. He said he’d prefer to leave it to states, like Colorado and Washington, that have already legalized pot to test it.
“We can maybe one day be in a position to study what happens in those states, but I have no comfort level with that right now,” Edwards said.
Edwards, a Democrat who took office Jan. 11, fielded nearly two dozen questions from callers during the latest afternoon call-in show.
Tuesday’s episode focused largely on health care in Louisiana — from medical marijuana to Medicaid expansion to the Zika virus — with Department of Public Health and Hospitals Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee joining Edwards for several answers.
“For me, it was the easiest big decision that I’m going to make,” Edwards told one caller who asked why he quickly signed an order to expand Medicaid through the federal Affordable Care Act. “This is something I studied for a number of years.”
Gee, who took on the secretary role shortly after Edwards was sworn into office, said that there have been no documented Zika infections in Louisiana to date, but urged listeners to be vigilant about controlling the mosquito population by treating or eliminating standing pools of water on their properties.
Asked about the opioid epidemic and spike in heroine overdoses in Louisiana, both Gee and Edwards said they back the expanded availability of naloxone, an opiate antidote that can reverse overdoses.
“This is a sad epidemic that affects so many of us,” Gee said. “It’s a huge problem in our state.”
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp.
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