Louisiana Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill in Committee
The Pelican State’s relatively-young medical marijuana program could be expanding soon, with new licensed producers meaning lower costs for patients who have a Louisiana Marijuana Card.
House Bill 566 passed out of the Committee on Health and Welfare with a unanimous vote on April 28. It will now head to the House Appropriations Committee.
If the bill is eventually passed by both chambers, it will remove the current limit on medical marijuana production licenses here, which is currently set at two cannabis producers for the entire state. While the bill has been opposed by the state’s current providers, supporters say that it will lower costs for Louisiana patients.
Legalization Advocate Says Louisiana Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill Would Bring State In-Line With Neighbors
The Health and Welfare Committee heard testimony from the southeast legislative manager for the legalization advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project, who said that the state lags far behind the number of licensed cannabis producers allowed by neighboring states. Kevin Caldwell told the committee that HB 566 would bring Louisiana’s medical marijuana program more in-line with its neighbors’ programs, lowering patient costs in the process.
“Let’s look to see what our neighbors are doing,” Caldwell said, according to national news site The Center Square. “In Arkansas, a state that has over 1 million less citizens than Louisiana, they have eight growers. The state of Florida has twenty-two growers. Oklahoma, which has no caps, has well over one thousand growers. Missouri has sixty growers. The state of Mississippi adopted a medical cannabis program this year and they put no caps on the number of growers in their program. So if we’re looking to see how our neighbors are proceeding with medical cannabis, I think that it’s important to see the fact that we have a lot more than two growers in all of our neighboring states.”
Caldwell pointed out the simple economic fact that more competition on the supply side leads to lower costs from the demand side, and noted to the committee that medical marijuana prices in neighboring states are about 40% lower than they are here.
Patients, Politicians, Others Tell Committee Bill Would Benefit Louisiana
According to The Center Square, the committee also heard testimony in favor of HB 566 from a variety of reform advocates, including current medical marijuana patients and a legalization-minded politician.
“The people that are running (the state’s medical marijuana program) right now are just here to make money,” said Angela Broussard, a medical marijuana patient, of Louisiana's current cannabis providers, who are both opposing HB 566. “People who are coming off of opioid dependency are looking back to opioids right now, because that’s $3 a month. And this is ridiculous.”
Indeed other medical marijuana patients told the committee that the current program suffers from shortages and price increases, with a prescription for a cannabis tincture running about $400 a month.
The committee also heard from Gary Chambers, a U.S. Senate candidate who recently smoked marijuana in a campaign ad. Chambers said that Louisiana should follow the lead of other states and increase public revenues by expanding the state’s medical marijuana program. He said failing to do so has disadvantaged Pelican State patients and put the state at an economic disadvantage.
“We are missing out on golden opportunities in this state to build a gateway to better roads, bridges and schools and this committee has the capacity to help us expand that industry,” he said.
The Center Square also reports that Jeff Schmidtke, executive director of BioSciences Louisiana, a company pursuing a Loiusiana cultivation license, emphasized that regardless of his company’s potential profits, HB 566 would “benefit everyone.”
“More growers alleviate the pressure of stocking empty shelves and allow for more product to be dedicated to doctors, scientists, professors, students and deans of research for all hospital systems across the state,” he said.
Bill Would Also Reorganize Louisiana’s Medical Marijuana Program, Emphasizing the Medical
HB 566 would also reorganize the state’s medical marijuana program, placing it under the auspices of the Louisiana Department of Health instead of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Bill sponsor Representative Larry Bagley told The Center Square that he has had several meetings with both departments to assure that the reorganization would be viable and the expanded number of grower licenses would be manageable.
Bill Not Only Medical Marijuana Expansion Proposal Being Considered in House
HB 566 is only one of three bills to have received attention in the House of late.
HB 697, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, passed out of the House Health and Welfare Committee on April 20, appropriately enough. Magee’s bill would expand the number of pharmacies licensed to sell medical marijuana and would allow for home delivery.
And on the same day that the Health and Welfare Committee passed HB 566, the entire House passed HB 135, which would allow the sale of medical marijuana to select out-of-state patients.
Don’t Wait for Expansion to Start Your Medical Marijuana Journey
While it may not be perfect, Louisiana’s medical marijuana program allows you to find relief that’s unavailable from any other medication, and the program is poised to improve and expand soon. Why wait any longer to find out if medical marijuana is right for you?
It’s now easier than ever before to get approved for a Louisiana Marijuana Card, and you can even do it online! To find out if medical marijuana is right for you, and reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable doctors!
Doctors Who Care.
Relief You Can Trust.
At Louisiana Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (833) 253-2943, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
Check out Louisiana Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the medical marijuana conversation in Louisiana!