SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - In 2016, Louisiana lawmakers passed Senate Bill 271, which legalized marijuana for medical use. However, it is still a felony for growers and pharmacies to grow and distribute it.
This year, several bills are being considered that would expand the use of medicinal marijuana. Among those is Senate Bill 35. If passed, it would offer legal protections ensuring people in the industry are not prosecuted for their job.
"One of the things listed for medical marijuana usage in the bill that passed a couple years back is Crohn's Disease, which was added to the list," said Ron Richard, a Lake Charles attorney. "I fought that battle myself since I was very, very young."
Richard sympathizes with ones who suffer from chronic diseases.
"I understand people having that sort of problem, in addition to things like cancer, leukemia, epilepsy and needing some other outlet besides the drugs that have been tried for so long," he said.
"Marijuana is frequently used as a drug that stimulates appetite and also helps with pain and anxiety," said Dr. David Chang, medical director of radiation and oncology at CHRISTUS-St. Patrick Hospital.
Chang recognizes another threat in Louisiana.
"The opioid crisis is one of the biggest health problems facing the United States over the past 15-20 years," he said.
He is optimistic that Senate Bill 35 will pass.
"If we look at the other states that have medical marijuana, some of them have a very widespread industry, where it's widely available for affordable prices," Chang said. "Other states have very few growers at very high prices. It's hard to predict but I do think it's a step in the right direction."
For a look at Senate Bill 35, click HERE.