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Take a deep breath: Medical Marijuana bill passes house

by Minden Press-Herald

By Hunter Lovell
LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — The House advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow patients to inhale medical marijuana.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, passed in a 73-3 vote and now goes to the Senate.

James said the bill would not permit smoking. The medical cannabis would be breathed through a device similar to an asthma inhaler.

The sale of the raw plant form of marijuana is still prohibited in Louisiana.

James also included an amendment that would allow doctors who live outside the state to recommend therapeutic medical marijuana usage. Current law only authorizes licensed in-state physicians to approve marijuana treatments.

Patients must have “debilitating medical conditions” to legally use medical cannabis in the state. Those conditions include cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, intractable pain and human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

It is still not clear when medical marijuana will be administered to patients in the state. Both chambers passed legislation in 2015 to allow the drug to be used by patients with the debilitating conditions.

But a dispute between the LSU AgCenter and the state’s agricultural department has delayed any distribution of marijuana to patients.

Agricultural Commissioner Mike Strain has criticized the AgCenter and its marijuana-growing partner, GB Sciences, for “illegally” moving its marijuana production into the main growing center and bypassing protocol.

The AgCenter responded in kind to Strain, saying he has prevented thousands of Louisiana patients from receiving treatment by creating excessive hurdles.

The House also voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would make it a crime to falsely claim U.S. citizenship on a voter registration application. The bill passed 63-24, with many Democrats objecting to its necessity.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, would punish people for incorrectly claiming American citizenship on voter registration applications. The penalty for filing false public records is up to five years in prison.

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