Overview of the Louisiana Therapeutic Marijuana Act
While Louisiana first enacted therapeutic marijuana legislation in 1978, multiple legislative sessions have seen changes to the program. While it has finally gotten to the point that MPP classifies the program as effective, the program remains one of the most restrictive in the country.
Here are key features of Louisiana’s Therapeutic Marijuana Act:
Qualifying conditions: The law currently covers cancer, HIV/AIDS, cachexia or wasting disorder, seizure disorders (including but not limited to epilepsy), spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, severe muscle spasms, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple sclerosis, intractable pain, and — in some cases — autism.
“Intractable pain” is defined as a pain state in which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated with the consent of the patient and which, in the generally accepted course of medical practice, no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible, or none has been found after reasonable efforts. It is pain so chronic and severe as to otherwise warrant an opiate prescription.
The program also now includes any of the following conditions associated with autism spectrum disorder:
Repetitive or self-stimulatory behavior of such severity that the physical health of the person with autism is jeopardized
Avoidance of others or inability to communicate of such severity that the physical health of the person with autism is jeopardized
Physically aggressive or destructive behavior
However, no physician may recommend medical marijuana for treatment of any condition associated with autism spectrum disorder for a patient who is under the age of 18 unless the physician consults with a pediatric subspecialist.
Forms of marijuana: Physicians may recommend any form of marijuana other than smoked or “raw or crude” cannabis, in accordance with rules promulgated by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. Beginning in 2019, the legislature approved allowing the vaporization of marijuana via a “metered-dose inhaler.”
Dispensaries: One medical marijuana pharmacy — regulated by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy — is authorized to operate in each of the nine regions of the state established by the Louisiana Department of Health. A 17-member board is mandated by state law to oversee the marijuana dispensaries and will award a 10th permit as needed.
Production: The law states that either or both of Louisiana State University and Southern University, jointly or separately, have the right of first refusal to be licensed as production facilities. Both universities have agreed to grow marijuana and have sub-contracted out the cultivation of the plant. As of April 2020, only Louisiana State University has produced medical cannabis. Medical cannabis production is regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Sunset:Unless it is re-enacted by the legislature, the act will expire on January 1, 2025. Initially, the law was scheduled to expire on January 1, 2020, but it was extended.