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Louisiana Will Expand Its Medical Marijuana Market

A new law in Louisiana allows physicians to prescribe medical marijuana for any patient whom they think needs it.

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As marijuana legalization efforts grab headlines in more populated states, Louisiana has quietly revised its medical marijuana regulations in a way that should open fresh opportunities for cannabis entrepreneurs.

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In August, three new laws went into effect to expand and support the state’s medical marijuana market, one of the fast-growing cannabis markets in The South.

The most impactful is a new law that allows physicians to prescribe cannabis for any patient, not just those with a handful of specific medical conditions. The law states that physicians can prescribe medical marijuana for “any condition” that is “debilitating to an individual patient.”

That’s a significant change. Previously, physicians could only prescribe marijuana for patients with conditions from a list approved by the state. Those conditions included autism spectrum disorders, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a statement on the law change, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano called the new law “common sense legislation that provides physicians, not lawmakers, the ability and discretion to decide what treatment options are best for their patients.”

He noted that doctors already have the ability nationwide to make decisions on the use of opioids and other medicines, adding that these drugs “pose far greater risks to patients than cannabis.”

Only California, Maine and Virginia have a similar law on the books.

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The law also allows any doctor to prescribe marijuana.

Another big change provided by the new law is that any doctor in Louisiana can prescribe marijuana. Previously, doctors had to go through a process of registering with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners and getting approval to prescribe cannabis.

Only about 40 doctors could prescribe marijuana across the entire state, according to a report from KLFY in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Rep. Larry Bagley, the Republican state legislator who introduced the bill, told Marijuana Moment that the new law will be  “a game-changer for Louisiana, for the state, for the pharmacies that are doing this. I think it’s going to be a big moneymaker for the state. At least I hope it is. And I think that everybody’s going to be really happy about it, but time will tell.”

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Two other marijuana-related bills could impact Louisiana.

Two other laws also went into effect in Louisiana in August. 

The first makes dispensaries immune from prosecution, provided they are licensed by the Louisiana Department of Health and have patients who are using medical marijuana. The other encourages financial institutions to extend services to state-licensed medical cannabis businesses.

Financial services are an ongoing problem for cannabis entrepreneurs across the country. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal drug at the federal level, banks refuse to offer financial services out of fear they will run afoul of federal regulators.

The latest attempt to change the federal level situation came from Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. As part of coronavirus relief legislation, they included allowing banks to give financial services to cannabis businesses. That legislation remains stalled.

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