The overwhelming Louisiana House of Representatives passed law late Monday to allow smokable marijuana to be included in the state’s medical cannabis program.
Houma Republican House Speaker Pro-tem Tanner Magee’s House Bill 391 with 73-26 votes, now moving to Senate for debate.
It precedes an expected vote this week on Republican MP Richard Nelson’s House Bill 524 in Mandeville to legalize recreational herbs, which have gained momentum but are far from complete.
Magee and other proponents of expanding the medical cannabis program said the legally available products – tinctures, topical creams, gums, and metered dose inhalers – are too expensive for many patients.
“Most of the products are not insured,” said Magee. “This is one way of providing a cheaper option.
“It’s very popular in every corner of the state and it’s what people want and what people need.”
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Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, told USA Today Network Monday that medicinal cannabis has been a miracle cure for pain relief for one of his close relatives.
“I’ve seen the relief it can bring,” said Bagley, who said he had never smoked marijuana.
Bagley supports the expansion of medical marijuana but said he would not vote for full legalization, a signal that some of the Republicans who supported Magee’s bill are not ready for legalization.
Wellcana Group’s John Davis, one of the state’s two authorized cannabis producers as a partner of the LSU AgCenter, said current medical products are expensive because they require expensive equipment to process them.
Magee’s Accompanying Act (HB 514), which levies state sales taxes on the raw marijuana product or flower, has already passed the full house with 70 votes.
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Currently, medical marijuana products are not subject to sales tax. House Bill 514 would only tax the raw smokable form of the plant, not the tinctures and gums already on the market.
Doctors cannot technically prescribe medical marijuana because it remains illegal at the federal level. But doctors in Louisiana can “recommend” medical marijuana for any condition they think the medicine would benefit from.
Greg Hilburn reports on the state policy of the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @ GregHilburn1.