What the Recent Changes to Marijuana Laws Mean for Louisiana Patients
Cannabis laws have recently changed here in the Bayou State, but the fact is that they haven’t changed in any significant way. And you’ll still need to get a Louisiana Marijuana Card to truly experience the healing properties of cannabis.
The Monroe News-Star recently researched the changes to Louisiana’s cannabis laws that were passed during the last legislative session and over the summer. It’s an article that’s worth reading, considering how difficult it can be to keep up with the seemingly ever-changing marijuana regulations, but a close look at the details reveals that there really hasn’t been much progress.
Speaking of a lack of changes, let’s start by looking at two issues that lawmakers failed to address: the number of licensed dispensary companies in the state, and the kind of legal obstacles faced by medical practitioners who want to participate in the state’s medical marijuana market.
No New Pharmacy or Cultivation Licenses Issued In Louisiana
One of the most disappointing parts of the recent changes in state cannabis laws is the fact that legislators didn’t make a change in the number of new licenses issued to would-be dispensaries or cultivators.
Instead, the same ten companies will continue to be the exclusive suppliers of medical marijuana to the state’s cannabis patients. The News-Star rightly described these companies as “regional monopoly pharmacies.” and the lack of competition they face means high prices for patients. Further, by not adding additional growers, lawmakers are essentially encouraging higher prices by refusing to give retailers more options.
It’s a simple, basic fact of economics that “when firms have to compete for customers, it leads to lower prices, higher quality goods and services, greater variety, and more innovation.”
It just stands to reason: If you owned the only medical marijuana dispensary in a particular community, what incentive would you have to keep costs down? Or to stock new merchandise that may or may not sell well for you? You’ve got a captive market of customers who have no other choice to treat their qualifying condition, but to buy from you. They either pay your price, or they continue to suffer.
But more dispensaries means more competition, which should then lead to improved retail service, including better pricing. Lower prices in turn should attract more patients, including would-be patients who have been suffering because they cannot afford medical marijuana under the current paradigm.
More marijuana patients would benefit the entire state, strengthening the economy and attracting even more competition.
Fortunately, the News-Star reports that lawmakers “did approve a new law to let the licensed pharmacies add locations within their regions when their number of patients hits a certain threshold.” That way, as the state’s medical marijuana program grows, patients won’t find themselves traveling long distances and waiting in lines to shop at a select few dispensaries.
Medical Practitioners Face Legal Hurdles for Working With Marijuana
Another issue with the state’s medical marijuana market that has gone unaddressed by lawmakers is the legal issues and headaches medical practitioners face when they opt to recommend medical marijuana for their patients.
Kathryn Thomas is a mental health counselor who works with a number of doctors that recommend medical marijuana to their patients. She told the News-Star that medical professionals face a lot of red tape if they recommend cannabis for their patients. She said this roadblock discourages many doctors from doing so.
“It can affect your banking,” Thomas said. “You cannot commingle marijuana money with your regular practice money. I've had to get a different workman's comp carrier. Any time you bring in this federally illegal substance in your business, you have to be very aware that there's a lot of negatives that could happen to your business.”
And of course fewer medical professionals suggesting marijuana for their patients means fewer patients are getting their Louisiana Marijuana card. This denies those patients the relief they deserve and drives down participation in the state’s medical marijuana program, which increases costs.
Fortunately, you can always make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate doctors, none of whom will hesitate to recommend cannabis to patients who may benefit from it.
Louisiana Lawmakers Allow Wider Range of Medical Practitioners to Recommend Medical Marijuana
Although the changes to Louisiana’s cannabis laws aren’t very significant to patients, there were still some changes nonetheless. One of the changes will expand the type of licensed professionals who may recommend marijuana for patients, which may help offset the number of doctors who opt to avoid the headaches associated with doing so.
House Bill 190, which will take effect on August 1, allows nurse practitioners and medical psychologists to join doctors in recommending medical marijuana to those who need it.
Some are hailing this as a means to make up for the many doctors who are reluctant to recommend cannabis, as it will give patients more practitioners to consider in their efforts to get a Louisiana Marijuana card.
On the other hand, critics worry that nurse practitioners and psychologists will be no more eager to wander into the state’s medical marijuana market than many doctors have been. Beyond that, do we really want to discourage the most qualified professionals from participating and encourage less qualified ones to do so?
Did we mention you could always just make an appointment with one of our doctors? We are proud to offer an environment to many licensed doctors who are educated about the benefits of cannabis.
Louisiana Lawmakers Allow “Adult-Use” Hemp
A new law that became active on June 16th legalizes so-called “adult-use” hemp, a move that is of very little medical value.
First, hemp is the low-THC cousin of medical marijuana. Although non-THC products like hemp and CBD are often marketed to have all kinds of healing properties, the science behind those claims can be described as lacking at best.
In 2018, Congress reclassified hemp so that it was no longer a controlled substance and tasked the Food and Drug Administration with the responsibility to regulate it. This action more or less legalized all hemp products with less than .3% THC content, which meant CBD derived from hemp was largely legalized as well, thus the deluge of CBD products that many have noticed in stores since 2018.
Louisiana’s new law expands that legalization to any hemp product with 0.5mg of THC per dose. Unfortunately, it’s unclear how doses will be defined, and hemp and CBD retailers haven’t been known for their scruples, so one has to wonder how they might try to game this loophole.
For example, because CBD is unregulated, manufacturers make all kinds of seemingly outrageous claims about its medicinal value. In reality, however, there is little to no research to back up these claims.
Public health researcher Theodore Caputi told Kaiser Permanente that CBD manufacturers often focus on users’ reviews in their marketing and advertising. That’s hardly a scientific method for establishing the medical value of CBD, given the possibility of a placebo effect.
“People have been led to believe all sorts of [health effects] that CBD might have but that aren’t founded in scientific evidence,” Caputi said.
But perhaps even more alarming than unfounded claims is the fact that the unregulated nature of the CBD market means that consumers can never be entirely sure what’s in the CBD products they are putting in their bodies.
Health news site HealthDay recently reported on another aspect of the CBD industry that may be more disturbing than manufacturers’ tendency to make unfounded claims: their habit of misinforming consumers about the content of their products.
According to HealthDay, the scholarly journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence recently published a study that found that about 60% of CBD products also contain THC.
Getting a surprise dose of THC with your CBD purchase may seem like a plus to many patients, but when you purchase a supplement or medicine, you should be getting that supplement or medicine.
What you should not be getting is an unwanted or unexpected high, or a surprise ingredient that might not mix well with your other medications.
And if they’re not telling you how much THC is actually in their products, then who knows what else they’re keeping from you?
We’re sure lawmakers had good intentions with these new laws, but we’re also firm believers in the fact that medicine should be strictly, closely regulated, and that doctors are the healthcare professionals most qualified to decide which medications are appropriate for individual patients. We’re also sure that medical marijuana patients deserve more options and lower costs.
We can only hope that Louisiana lawmakers come to agree with us.
Don’t Wait for Lawmakers to Get it Right Before Starting Your Medical Marijuana Journey
While it may not be perfect, Louisiana’s medical marijuana program allows you to find a type of relief that’s different from any other medication. 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!
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