On Monday, the Louisiana State Senate passed a bill that takes the state one step closer to allowing pharmacies to sell medical marijuana to registered patients. The bill authorizes one grower and ten dispensaries across the state. It limits the use of medical marijuana to patients who suffer from glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and for those undergoing chemotherapy.
Louisiana Republican State Senator Fred Mills sponsored Senate Bill 143. Senator Mills is a pharmacist who directed the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy for three years. He said that he became interested in the issue in the late 1990s when people called the Board to ask where medical marijuana was available.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana since the early 1990s
Although Louisiana legalized medical marijuana in 1978 and then again in 1991, there is no mechanism in the law that allows for it to be sold. Senate Bill 143 provides these three agencies with specific rule-making authority:
Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners would set the rules about prescriptions.
Louisiana Board of Pharmacy would set the rules about dispensaries.
Louisiana Department of Agriculture would set the rules for a single grow site.
Second attempt by Senator Mills
Senator Mills attributed passage of the bill to his collaboration with the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. That enabled Mills to get his bill written so that the group could take a neutral position on it. The opinion of the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association carries significant weight with legislators and their constituents.
This was the second time that Senator Mills submitted legislation on medical marijuana. His bill died in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last year after he faced significant opposition from the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and Louisiana’s District Attorney’s Association. Those groups were concerned that the enactment of such legislation could lead to widespread illegal use of marijuana for personal pleasure.
Senator Mills saw increased support for his bill from a number of committee members who voted against his legislation last year. On Monday, the committee members voiced support for the bill on the Senate floor and voted for it.
In April, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal stated that he is open to legislation that legalizes the medical marijuana dispensaries as long as the industry is tightly regulated. The legislation will now move to the Louisiana House of Representatives for consideration.