Medical marijuana program expansion continues to advance in Louisiana House

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

A Louisiana House committee took another step Thursday toward adding smokeable raw marijuana to the state’s medical cannabis program.

“This is wildly popular in every corner of the state,” said Rep. Tanner Magee, the Houma Republican who authored House Bill 391.

Magee described raw marijuana as a cheaper alternative to the tinctures available in the state and a less addictive remedy for people who might otherwise resort to opioids. Neighboring states already offer the flower as part of their programs, which undercuts Louisiana’s program, he said.

Rep. Larry Bagley, the Stonewall Republican who chairs the Health and Welfare Committee, said 65% of the respondents to his district survey supported the change.

“I pray that it will help against the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Kenny Cox, D-Natchitoches.

The Health and Welfare Committee advanced HB 278 with only one dissenting vote by Rep. Robby Carter, D-Amite.

The full House voted, 71-24, on Tuesday in favor of Magee’s House Bill 514 to impose the state’s 4.45% sales tax on raw marijuana for therapeutic use and to dedicate the proceeds to transportation construction. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimated the revenue could be $1.7 million the first year, possibly ramping up to $12 million by the 2025-2026 fiscal year.

Since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, physicians can “recommend” therapeutic cannabis but, technically, cannot prescribe it. Under the change advanced Thursday, qualified pharmacies could dispense up to 2.5 ounces of raw marijuana every two weeks to any given patient.

Using marijuana for recreation is illegal in Louisiana.