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Louisiana lawmakers push for more medical marijuana accessibility

(WLBT)
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 11:17 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (KSLA) - Currently, Louisiana has issued nine licenses for medical marijuana dispensers; those facilities are the only ones authorized to sell medical marijuana to patients.

However, several bills advanced Tuesday, April 19 that aim to make the medicine more accessible.

When the flower form of medical marijuana became available at the beginning of 2022, demand boomed, with some pharmacies running out of product. Many have argued the medicine is not easily accessible for everyone.

HB 768, proposed by Rep. Joseph Marino, would increase the total number of licenses from 10 to 25, issued by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. It also states that 30% of those licenses would need to go to businesses owned by women and minorities.

On the other hand, HB 697, proposed by Rep. Tanner Magee, would require the nine currently licensed pharmacies to open additional locations in their region if/when they have 5,000 active, qualified patients. It also requires those pharmacies to offer home deliveries to “patients in each zip code within its region at least once per month.”

HB 425, proposed by Rep. Larry Bagley, would increase the total number of licenses to 20.

“We have patients, honestly, that are driving 2 or 3 hours just to get to a dispensary to pick up their medication,” said Kathryn Thomas, CEO of The Healing Clinics. “There’s still no evening availability, and we need weekend availability, to be quite honest.”

Rep. Cedric Glover’s HB 775 would remove certain “equipment or devices” from the criminal definition of “drug paraphernalia.” It would specifically apply to those “solely used or intended for use for the inhalation of raw or crude” medical marijuana.

“To consume the flower, you need a grinder, pipe, paper, which is still considered ‘paraphernalia’ in Louisiana,” Thomas said. “We want our patients to be able to purchase the paraphernalia to consume the flower that is now legal in Louisiana.”

Other notable laws, HB 135 and 137, also proposed by Rep. Marino, would allow pharmacies to serve qualified out-of-state patients and protect those visitors from prosecution.

Each of these bills is headed to the full House floor for debate, with the exception of Glover’s bill. That one is pending in the House Administration of Criminal Justice.

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