Bill adding smokable marijuana to Louisiana medical cannabis program gets final passage
Patients in Louisiana will soon be able to access the raw, smokable form of marijuana after a bill to expand the state's medical cannabis program won final legislative passage Wednesday.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to sign House Bill 391 by Houma Republican House Speaker Pro-tem Tanner Magee into law.
The bill won overwhelming approval in both the House and Senate.
"This is wildly popular in every corner of the state and it's what people want and what people need," Magee has said.
Magee and other advocates of expanding the medical cannabis program said the current products legally available — tinctures, topical creams, gummies and metered-dose inhalers — are too expensive for many patients.
"Most of the products aren't covered by insurance," Magee said. "This is a way to provide a more affordable option."
State Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, told USA Today Network medical cannabis has been a miracle drug in relieving pain for one of his close relatives.
"I've seen the relief it can provide," said Bagley, who said he has never smoked marijuana.
John Davis of Wellcana Group, one of the state's two authorized cannabis growers as a partner with the LSU AgCenter, said the current medical products are costly because they require expensive equipment to process them.
Doctors can't technically prescribe medical marijuana because it remains illegal federally. But Louisiana doctors can "recommend" medical marijuana for any condition they believe would benefit from the medicine.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.