On Wednesday, the Louisiana House Health and Welfare Committee approved two separate bills that advance medical marijuana access. The first bill permits medical cannabis deliveries to patients’ homes. The second bill qualifies medical cannabis for any debilitating medical condition, so long as a doctor makes a written suggestion for it.
Both bills were sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagely (R), who initially opposed marijuana legalization in any form.
“I’ll say this. I have never been a proponent of medical marijuana. I voted against every piece of legislation that came down because I just didn’t believe in it and I thought there was an ulterior motive,” Bagley said to Marijuana Moment. “But now, constituents in my area, they come to me and they ask me for help because they’re having pain, they can’t find things to cure the pain. They’re using opioids, some of them, they’ve just got problems that the doctors can’t seem to help.”
“Now their personal physician can write them a script for [cannabis], and they can get it,” he continued. “Who knows you better than your personal physician? I thought it made perfect sense.”
So, good on Rep. Bagely for doing what every politician should do: Fighting for what the people want and not what he personally wants. Studies show that cannabis can control chronic pain by reducing inflammation and altering pain perceptions to manageable levels. Furthermore, states that legalize medical or recreational cannabis see lower rates of opioid abuse, too. Currently, only 14 severe conditions qualify in Louisiana for medical cannabis, such as epileptic seizures and cancers. But if the expansion bill passes, doctors will have much more leeway when deciding which patients should be permitted to possess and use medical cannabis.
As for the delivery bill, if the new law passes, it would simply extend a program that’s already in place. To ensure patients could receive weed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s Department of Pharmacy passed an emergency rule that allows marijuana dispensaries to deliver cannabis products to patients’ homes. The bill would make the current emergency program a permanent fixture under state law.
House representatives will soon debate on both bills before making their final votes. Bills approved by the House require the governor’s signature to become law.
Ironically, despite Louisiana finally recognizing cannabis as medicine, the state has more people in prison for life over nonviolent weed offenses than any other state in the US. Louisiana has a three-strikes policy, where a third felony conviction — such as for weed dealing or possession — can incur a life sentence without parole.
Although Louisiana’s medical marijuana program is nearly a year old, the new laws did not rectify past injustices for those incarcerated for harmless marijuana crimes. And, not surprisingly, over 90 percent of the state’s nonviolent prisoners are black Americans.