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Marijuana grows in a temporary facility run by GB Sciences and the LSU AgCenter in south Baton Rouge. A background check on the company has been completed, giving it the go-ahead for growing plants in its permanent facility.

Louisiana medical marijuana patients may soon be able to use inhalers to ingest the drug, after lawmakers approved a bill to allow for the use of “metered-dose inhalers." 

The state House on Wednesday gave final approval to a revised bill by state Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, to allow patients to use the inhalers, sending it to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk. The bill is the only change to the state's medical marijuana program that lawmakers have passed so far in the session that ends Thursday. 

The measure nearly died in the state Senate after lawmakers balked at tweaking the state’s medical marijuana program, which has still not delivered the drug to patients, several years after it was legalized for medicinal use. But state Sen. Fred Mills, who has helped usher the state’s marijuana program through the State Capitol, amended the bill to tighten the language to only allow “metered-dose inhalers” instead of the drug in “inhalation” form.

Mills, R-Parks, told senators the bill would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions a “last gasp effort” to get relief from medical marijuana more quickly.

“If someone has a debilitating disease and this quick-acting meter does inhalation will give someone quicker relief … who are we to stop that?” Mills said.

After the Senate approved the changes Monday, the House voted 82-0 Wednesday to send the bill to Edwards’ desk.

Medical marijuana is still not available to patients, after repeated delays at the grower level have held up the production of the medicine. GB Sciences, the company hired by the LSU AgCenter to grow marijuana, has repeatedly butted heads with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, which regulates the state’s growers.

A limited batch of the product could reach the shelves of marijuana pharmacies this month. When that happens, it will only be sold in a tincture form mixed with coconut oil. Lawmakers passed a highly-restrictive program that only allows certain non-smokable forms of the drug.

“(The bill) is a positive step to move forward to getting Louisiana having a recognized therapeutic cannabis program,” said Kevin Caldwell, head of CommonSense NOLA, which advocates for marijuana access. “I think the bill accomplished everything it could this session.”


Follow Sam Karlin on Twitter, @samkarlin.