Louisiana lawmakers have approved a bill to allow medical marijuana patients to use inhaled cannabis products. The amended measure, which was approved by the Louisiana House of Representatives on Wednesday by a vote of 82-0, will apply only to metered-dose inhalers and does not legalize smokable forms of cannabis.
Under current regulations of the state’s medical marijuana program, only cannabis medicinal oils, pills, liquids, and topical preparations are permitted, although no cannabis products have yet gone on sale. Louisiana lawmakers passed legislation legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis in 2015, but continued regulatory issues have repeatedly delayed the rollout of the program for patients.
Bill Revived After Faltering
Louisiana’s medical marijuana inhalation bill seemed doomed for failure on Saturday when the measure was shelved in the state Senate because of concerns from Republican Sen. Dan Claitor and others over adding new delivery methods to the program. But on Monday, Republican Sen. Fred Mills, who is also a pharmacist, was able to revive the bill by amending it to specify that only metered-dose inhalers would be allowed.
“If someone has a debilitating disease and this quick-acting meter dose inhalation will give someone quicker relief … who are we to stop that?” Mills told his colleagues in the Senate.
The Senate then voted 31-7 to approve the measure, prompting Wednesday’s vote in the House. The bill will now be sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his consideration.
Kevin Caldwell, the head of cannabis policy reform group CommonSense NOLA, applauded the approval of the inhalation bill by Louisiana lawmakers.
“(The bill) is a positive step to move forward to getting Louisiana having a recognized therapeutic cannabis program,” said Caldwell. “I think the bill accomplished everything it could this session.”
When Will Cannabis Hit Dispensary Shelves?
After years of setbacks, Louisiana state officials announced in January that cannabis products should be available in dispensaries by this summer. Cannabis is currently being produced by the Louisiana State AgCenter and its growing partner GB Sciences. Hampton Grunewald, associate vice president for governmental relations at LSU, said recently that products should soon be ready for testing before being distributed to retailers, barring any unforeseen problems.
“We don’t see any hiccups between now and the end of May,” said Grunewald. “But there may be something we don’t even know is there. That’s the same for (the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry) with testing. We both have things in front of us that we’ve never seen before. We fully anticipate having at least by the end of May product available for testing.”