Wednesday afternoon, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee approved a bill that is intended to stop the cruel criminalization of seriously ill patients who benefit from medical marijuana. The bill, which has already passed the Senate with a 22-13 vote, now moves to the full House for a vote. If you are a Louisiana resident, please take a moment today to write your representative in support of this compassionate bill — SB 143.
SB 143, filed by Sen. Fred Mills, Jr. (R), would amend a 1991 law that allows Louisiana’s physicians to prescribe medical marijuana in accordance with FDA and DEA guidelines. Since these guidelines don’t exist, this law has never been operable. Sen. Mills’ proposal requires the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to develop regulations governing distribution of medical marijuana.
Fortunately, the Health and Welfare Committee replaced the requirement that physicians “prescribe” medical marijuana with one stating that they “recommend” its use. This change was necessary as no physician — even in medical marijuana states — can “prescribe” medical marijuana because of federal law. While this is an important improvement, we are still concerned that the proposed program relies on pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana, which they are very unlikely to do because they are regulated by the DEA and distributing marijuana is a federal crime.
The Associated Press reports that Gov. Bobby Jindal has "no concerns" about the bill.
The Kentucky Legislature adjourned last week, ending its work for the year. Sadly, although the House Health and Welfare Committee approved an effective medical marijuana bill in February, it was not called for a vote in the House.
Legislators did make an effort to help some seriously ill patients who could benefit from cannabidiol (“CBD,” a non-psychoactive component of marijuana). On Thursday, April 10, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a proposal that is intended to allow patients to use CBD if directed to do so by a physician. The new law went into effect immediately with his signature, but, unfortunately, it is unlikely that it will actually result in patients being able to access CBD.
Despite concerns about access, and the fact that this legislation excludes the vast majority of medical marijuana patients, it is still a positive step forward. For more information on this new law, please see our summary of S.B. 124.
The Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee made history today when it voted 9-5 in favor of HB 350, the “Cannabis Compassion Act.” This is the first time a Kentucky legislative committee has ever voted to approve an effective medical marijuana bill.
If you are a Kentucky resident, please contact your representatives and senators today and urge them to join this committee in standing up for patients!
Sponsored by Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), a registered nurse, HB 350 would provide safe, legal access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS. Qualifying patients would be able to possess up to three ounces at a time and grow up to 12 plants per patient. The bill would also establish safety compliance facilities and would permit one medical marijuana compassion center for every 100,000 residents to ensure safe and reliable access for patients.
Last Thursday, the Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee considered the testimony of patients and advocates, who spoke in favor of passing a medical marijuana bill. Legislators learned about the experiences of 10 families who left their support structures and home state to move to Colorado, where young patients with seizure disorders could have legal access to medical marijuana. The hearing resulted in several news reports, including this article in The Lexington Herald-Leader and this video from WKYT.
Also last week, Senator Perry Clark (D-Louisville) reintroduced his medical marijuana bill for 2014. The bill number is SB 43. We are hopeful that a similar bill will soon be introduced in the Kentucky House, and that more hearings will be held on the issue in the weeks and months to come!