As the debate over the use of marijuana for medical purposes has heated up in recent years, many critics have pointed to the health benefits of cannabis. Some medical experts even point to the fact that marijuana has been used as a natural treatment for over 80 years. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the federal government did finally allow the use of marijuana to treat medical conditions, but since then, restrictions on the plant’s use have become more stringent.
This week, Louisiana’s legislature approved a bill that would allow Louisiana’s medical marijuana patients access to “smokable” marijuana. This move by the legislature follows the passage of a similar bill last month that allows for the use of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive plant chemical.
Smoking marijuana doesn’t just make you high. Smoking marijuana that has been properly extracted can provide a safe alternative to smoking the unprocessed flower. Often times, patients with illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS or Crohn’s disease are forced to choose between smoking marijuana or risking serious harm. Many patients don’t even know that smoking marijuana is an option.Lawmakers in Louisiana passed a bill Wednesday that would give patients enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program access to smokable forms of cannabis. The bill, House Bill 391, passed the Louisiana House of Representatives by a 76-17 vote, after being approved by the state Senate last month by a 23-14 vote. A recently approved measure allows patients enrolled in Louisiana’s medical marijuana program to possess and use unprocessed, smokeable forms of cannabis. Under the program’s current rules, patients only have access to medical marijuana products, including topicals, tinctures, chewing gum and inhalers that administer a dose of vaporized cannabis. Marijuana in raw flower form is not allowed, nor is the smoking of medical marijuana products. Republican House Speaker Tanner Magee, who is behind the bill, told local media that licensed products are too expensive for many medical marijuana patients in the state. Most products are not covered by insurance, Meiji said. It’s a way of offering a cheaper option. HB 391 was originally passed by lawmakers in the Louisiana House of Representatives in May. However, the bill was amended by the Senate, so the House will have to vote again on the revised version. The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support in both houses of the Louisiana legislature. It is very popular in every corner of the state, it is what the people want and need, Meiji said. Republican state representative Larry Bagley, who said he has never smoked marijuana, said cannabis was a panacea for his relative who suffers from chronic pain. I’ve seen the relief it can bring, Bagley said. Now that the compromise version of the measure has been approved by both houses of the Louisiana Legislature, HB 391 is on its way to the desk of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. According to many local media outlets, the governor is expected to sign the bill. House Bill 514, which goes hand in hand with HB 391 and seeks to enact a tax on medicinal cannabis flower, is currently pending before the Louisiana State Senate. On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved an amended version of the bill and sent it back to the Senate for a vote.
Decriminalization bill also pending in Louisiana
Louisiana lawmakers are also debating a measure to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults. Under this bill, House Bill 652, possession of up to 14 grams (about half an ounce) of cannabis would only be punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first and second offense. Minor offenses of marijuana possession will still be classified as a felony, but will no longer be punishable by jail time. We don’t need to fill our prisons with marijuana offenders, Democratic Representative Denise Marcell, a supporter of the bill, told local media last month. The Louisiana House of Representatives passed HB 652 on May 11 by a 67-24 majority, with strong support from members of both major political parties. The bill must now go to the Senate. Some of Louisiana’s largest cities, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, have already taken steps to remove low-level marijuana possession from the criminal code. In New Orleans, the penalty for first marijuana possession is only a $40 fine, and some city officials want to lower that fine even further to $1. In 2018, Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, abolished jail time as a possible penalty for possessing less than 14 grams of marijuana. Instead, a fine of $40 to $100 is imposed, depending on the number of the defendant’s prior convictions. Shreveport’s revised ordinance is similar to HB 652.The state of Louisiana has been the last holdout in the United States to allow the use of medical marijuana. While the specifics of the law have been debated for years, the law finally went into effect today. This means that patients suffering debilitating medical conditions now have the chance to safely access the plant. Of course, some of you out there are saying, “why take the chance?” It’s time for the people of Louisiana to put the fear of god into the rest of the country.. Read more about is weed legal in washington and let us know what you think.
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