Lawmakers aim to expand state’s medical marijuana program

METAIRIE, La. (WGNO) — Ahead of next week’s legislative session, several bills are being drafted aimed at improving the state’s medical marijuana program.

According to the Medical Marijuana Legislative Study Commission, Louisiana has the fewest cultivation licenses and the highest prices for medical marijuana in the United States.

Currently, there are nine dispensaries in the state and two licenses that allow the cultivation and processing of cannabis. Defenders hope to increase those numbers.

“A [bill] would be to increase the number of cultivation licenses, okay, so that provides a greater supply,” said Jeff Schmidtke, executive director of BioSciences of Louisiana. “It offers more varietal options. I think this introduces competition into the market as it is very limited at this stage, the end result most likely being lower prices for the patient. »

Another bill aims to increase the number of medical pharmacies in the state.

Schmidtke believes these two bills would ultimately prevent patients from obtaining marijuana illegally.

“We don’t want patients in Louisiana choosing illegal alternatives because they can’t access them legally, and right now over 80% of our patients are looking to the illicit market, and that’s unacceptable” , Schmidtke said.

Erick Sanchez, who uses medical marijuana, says it helps him deal with his anxiety and thinks it’s a better alternative than other remedies.

“A psychiatrist or someone who can write prescriptions will suggest Xanax or other types of pills,” Sanchez said. “Now the long-term effects of these are dangerous.”

Sanchez thinks the time is right to improve the state’s program because, he says, half of Louisiana’s population suffers from anxiety or depression.

“Cannabis has been proven to help in both of these circumstances, and I believe that at this time the Louisiana Legislature has an opportunity to help support these suffering individuals with this truly vital resource,” said Sanchez.

The 2022 regular session begins on Monday.

Ryan H. Bowman