Louisiana: Medical cannabis expansions take effect

Aug 01, 2020

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Louisiana: Medical cannabis expansions take effect

As of today, Louisiana’s list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis has gone from one of the most restrictive to one of the more expansive!

Three new medical cannabis laws took effect today, August 1, 2020. Perhaps the most important of the new laws is HB 819, which allows doctors to recommend medical cannabis for any medical condition the physician “considers debilitating to an individual patient” that the physician is qualified to treat.

Previously, patients could only receive a recommendation for cannabis if they have a medical condition that is specifically listed. HB 819 also adds several qualifying conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain associated with sickle cell anemia or fibromyalgia. The bill also removes the Board of Medical Examiners’ role in regulating medical cannabis recommendations. Now, physicians may communicate a recommendation by any means allowed by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy.

The other two laws that took effect today are HB 211, which protects banks serving medical cannabis businesses from state penalties, and HB 418, which protects physicians and medical facilities involved in medical cannabis.

While HB 819 will allow tens of thousands more individuals to qualify, Louisiana’s medical cannabis program fails patients in some other important areas. Louisiana is one of only two comprehensive medical cannabis states that prohibits cannabis in its raw, flower form. This prohibition drives up prices and deprives some patients of the option that works best for them. The state also has an absurdly low number of manufacturers (two) and dispensing pharmacies (nine or 10), reducing access and options.

Consider reaching out to your state lawmakers to let them know what reforms you want them to champion in 2021 — whether it’s improving medical cannabis, decriminalization, or cannabis legalization.