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State lawmakers support bill to allow inhaling of medical marijuana, updating other cannabis laws

Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, proposed bills looking to update the state’s cannabis legislation this session. (Sarah Gamard/LSU Manship School News Service)

By Hunter Lovell, LSU Manship School News Service 

BATON ROUGE — The House on Wednesday voted 82-0 to allow medical marijuana patients to inhale cannabis, sending the bill to the governor’s desk for final approval.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, does not allow smoking, but patients can inhale medical marijuana through a device similar to an asthma inhaler.

Present law permits patients to consume medical marijuana through edibles, oils and extracts.

The bill initially stalled in the Senate as lawmakers sought to expand the number of licenses to prescribe medical cannabis, but legislators revived the measure after including “metered-dose inhaler” in the definition of acceptable devices.

James also added an amendment to allow doctors who live outside the state to suggest therapeutic medical marijuana treatment. The current law only permits in-state physicians to recommend medical cannabis usage.

In order to legally receive medical marijuana, patients must have “debilitating medical conditions,” such as cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, intractable pain, and human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

No medical cannabis has been delivered to patients yet because of an ongoing feud between the state’s agriculture commissioner, Mike Strain, and the LSU AgCenter over a dispute about growing methods. Therapeutic marijuana is expected to be available later this year.

Other efforts to update the state’s cannabis laws were successfully passed during this legislative session.

House lawmakers on Monday unanimously supported a bill to legalize industrial hemp and allow the growth and sale of certain CBD products in Louisiana.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, was sent to the governor’s desk for review and approval. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat running for re-election in the fall, has said he is supportive of hemp regulation in Louisiana.

The Senate’s Agricultural Committee added a number of amendments to Schexnayder’s bill before the Senate approved the proposal in a 34-2 vote.

Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species, but hemp contains nearly no TCH or psychoactive properties. Hemp is the fiber of the cannabis plant, and is a multi-use material that can be used to make rope, fabric and paper products.

CBD is derived from hemp, and is used to manage pain, anxiety and even epilepsy. Retailers selling CBD products have opened in cities like Lafayette, New Orleans and Mandeville.

The state’s Agriculture Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture would regulate the growth of hemp and production of CBD.

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