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Wearing a 'House' mask and proper social distancing, Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, chats with Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, left, as the regular legislative session reopens Monday May 4, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

The Louisiana House has backed proposals to legalize and tax the raw, smokable form of medical marijuana, a key expansion of the state’s medical program as lawmakers debate looser rules for the drug.

The House voted 73-26 Monday to approve Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee’s House Bill 391 to allow patients to buy up to 71 grams – or 2.5 ounces – of raw marijuana every two weeks.

Currently, patients who get marijuana through the state’s medical program can only access several non-smokable forms of the drug, including tinctures and gummies. Magee’s bill would let the state’s two licensed producers – partners of the agricultural centers at LSU and Southern University – sell the smokable form of the drug to the state’s nine pharmacies licensed to sell marijuana to patients.

Magee, a Houma Republican, argued the legislation will improve access to patients and get a cheaper product to the market. Producers have said the raw form is cheaper – even if it's taxed, as Magee wants – than the tinctures, which must go through more processing.

He also noted Mississippi and Arkansas have both legalized the raw form of marijuana for medical use, and suggested patients will drive to other states to get the drug if his bill doesn’t pass.

“Your constituents are going to get this,” Magee said. “It depends on if they’re making a drive to Mississippi and bringing it back to Louisiana or making a drive to Arkansas and bringing it back to Louisiana.”

The proposals garnered little debate or opposition in the House. The state Senate, which historically has been more skeptical of looser cannabis laws, may be a rougher road for the bill.

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If the bill to legalize the raw form of marijuana for medical use and Magee’s taxing bill pass, legislative analysts project the state will bring in about $1.7 million in tax revenues initially, ramping up to $12 million by 2026.

The push to authorize the raw form of marijuana for medical use represents perhaps the most likely loosening of pot laws this year.

But some Republican lawmakers have indicated they’re willing to go even further, legalizing recreational pot. Rep. Richard Nelson, a Mandeville Republican, is sponsoring legislation to legalize the drug for adult use and tax it, a proposal that would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue. A House panel last week moved that bill to the House floor for debate, an historic vote that will give the proposal its first vote of the full House.

Voting to allow use of smokable marijuana for medical purposes (73): Speaker Schexnayder, Reps Adams, Bagley, Bishop, Bourriaque, Brass, Brown, Bryant, Butler, Carpenter, G. Carter, W. Carter, Cormier, Cox, Deshotel, DeVillier, DuBuisson, Duplessis, Emerson, Fontenot, Freeman, Freiberg, Gaines, Goudeau, Green, Harris, Hilferty, Hughes, Huval, Illg, James, Jefferson, Jenkins, T. Johnson, Jones, Jordan, Kerner, LaCombe, Landry, Larvadain, Lyons, Magee, Marcelle, Marino, McCormick, McFarland, McKnight, McMahen, D. Miller, G. Miller, Mincey, Moore, Muscarello, Nelson, Newell, Orgeron, C. Owen, R. Owen, Pierre, Pressly, Riser, Selders, St. Blanc, Stagni, Stefanski, Thomas, Turner, Villio, Wheat, White, Willard, Wright and Zeringue.

Voting against House Bill 391 (26): Reps. Amedee, Bacala, Beaullieu, Carrier, R. Carter, Crews, Edmonds, Edmonston, Farnum, Firment, Frieman, Gadberry, Garofalo, Geymann, Hodges, Hollis, Horton, Ivey, M. Johnson, Mack, Miguez, Romero, Schamerhorn, Seabaugh, Tarver and Thompson.

Not Voting (5): Reps Coussan, Davis, Echols, Glover, and Phelps.

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