LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Medical marijuana is coming soon to Louisiana and more patients now qualify for the treatment, after a law added to the list of eligible ailments. But there's concern whether those who qualify will be able to afford it.
It was a battle at the legislature that navy veteran Tony Landry helped fight, expanding conditions eligible for medical cannabis. He's an advocate with the Louisiana Veterans for Medical Cannabis. Landry suffers back pain from his service and sees cannabis as a safer alternative:
"I mean if you take an aspirin you can get a stomach ulcer, if you take ibuprofen you can get liver damage. Cannabis doesn't have any of those effects and it's never killed anyone," said Landry.
Landry is pleased the governor signed expansion bills into law. but he says many eligible may not be able to afford it.
"The veterans and the disabled folks that I think are going to need it the most are usually lower income in society. So, without insurance paying for it or Medicare or the VA, it's going to be hard for them to afford it," he said.
"I'm thinking it's going to be $250 to $300 a month. Plus the patients are required to go see their doctors every three months."
But Landry says there are proposals in congress to address the issue including more objective study.
"I think the VA is going to be hard pressed not to come out with the facts that it does help veterans. It helps veterans with PTSD and it helps veterans with chronic pain and those are the two main things that cause suicide among veterans, so it's very important," he said.
He says many veterans and others would prefer medical cannabis to opioid which he says are far more dangerous.The VA has issued this policy paper concerning state-approved marijuana programs.
"Opiate use is dropping 25% in states that have legal cannabis access," said Landry. "They don't want to take the opiates. They don't want the addictive medication to treat their pain."
Medical marijuana is expected to available in Louisiana by late summer.