The state Senate voted 28-6 Wednesday to approve a bill to make medical marijuana more widely available across Louisiana.
House Bill 819 would lift regulations that require doctors to register with the state to recommend it and that limit its use in treating diseases. Under the measure, any state-licensed physician could recommend medical marijuana for the treatment of debilitating health conditions. The Senate approved several amendments to the bill, which had already passed the House, so it will now go back to the House for final consideration. HB819 must be approved by 6 p.m. Monday to be sent to the governor’s desk.
Before the vote, Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, gave a personal anecdote about the legal use of marijuana making a positive impact on real Louisianans.
He said that a few months ago, he ran a daughter of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in a small grocery store in Lafayette.
“She was crying and she told me that day was the first day that they could legally access medical marijuana,” Mills said. “They thought that they were going to have to say goodbye to mom, but with her ability to use med marijuana, she was walking, playing cards, eating.”
Blanco later died from cancer.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-1 Wednesday to advance two other bills specifying other diseases suitable for medical marijuana treatments.
House Bill 158, proposed by Rep. Joseph Marino, No Party-Gretna, would authorize physicians to recommend medical marijuana for the treatment of certain neurodegenerative diseases and conditions.
House Bill 330, proposed by Rep. Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey, would let doctors recommend it for the treatment of the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Under current law, medical marijuana can be recommended but not prescribed by licensed physicians in Louisiana. A recommendation, however, acts as a prescription.
The Senate committee also voted in favor of a resolution to request an update from the Louisiana Department of Health on COVID-19 contact tracing plans. The resolution was sponsored by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez.
Contact tracing has been a controversial topic among Republican legislators. Some say their constituents are concerned about privacy issues even though public health experts say the tracing is essential to controlling the virus.
Voting to expand use of medical marijuana (28): President Cortez, Sens Allain, Barrow, Bernard, Bouie, Cathey, Connick, Fesi, Fields, Foil, Harris, Henry, Hensgens, Jackson, Johns, Lambert, Luneau, McMath, Milligan, F. Mills, R. Mills, Mizell, Morris, Price, Reese, Smith, Talbot and Ward.
Voting against HB819 (6): Sens Abraham, Cloud, Hewitt, Peacock, Pope and Womack.
Not Voting (5): Sens Boudreaux, Carter, Peterson, Tarver and White.