NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Should the state expand the use of medical marijuana? It's an issue that'll be taken up by the Louisiana Legislature once the legislative session opens Monday.
The use of medical marijuana is a hot button issue.
At City Park, walker Chip Schultz says, "I just have a big problem with it maybe being abused or misused."
"I think medical marijuana is great because I think it has a lot of uses that people with medical conditions need," said walker Theresa Kenny.
Right now, there's a law on the books saying medical marijuana can be prescribed for certain medical conditions such as symptoms related to chemotherapy cancer treatment. That law directed the DHH to set up regulations and a system for dispensing medical marijuana, but no distribution system was ever implemented.
State Senator Fred Mills of St. Martin Parish, wants to replace the current law with a new one that outlines a distribution system and takes more illnesses into account such as multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Mills explains, "I've received emails for the last years from a lot of patients with specific disease states that have said would we consider introducing this legislation and for those folks that's why I'm doing it."
Senate Bill 541 says only Louisiana residents 21 and older could receive medical marijuana and the recipients must not have a criminal record or prior activities that pose a threat to public interest. Mills says there will be strict regulations in place to make sure the marijuana is only used as an option of last resort. "It will be regulated by the product itself by the Department of Agriculture, the prescribing of it by the Board of Medical Examiners who oversee physicians and the pharmacy side by the Board of Pharmacy who regulates the practice of pharmacy," said Mills.
But could this bill actually have a chance of passing? UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak says, "It's only when legislators see other states raking in tens of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue will they even begin to consider something like that."
Chervenak says given how culturally conservative Louisiana is, it's doubtful. However, in January Governor Bobby Jindal lent his support to the issue saying, "If there's a certain legitimate medical need, I'd certainly be open to making it available under very strict supervision for patients who would benefit from that."
But it remains to be seen if the new bill will pass the state legislature in the coming weeks.
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