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Bills to expand access to medical marijuana advance

April 19, 2022 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Legislation aimed at expanding patient access to medical marijuana in Louisiana was advanced Tuesday by a state House committee.

Tuesday’s votes in the House Health and Welfare Committee sent the bills to the full House for debate.

The News-Star reports that the legislation would change the agency that regulates the medical marijuana industry, and adds the University of Louisiana at Monroe to the list of institutions that can do research on medical marijuana.

Lawmakers said current law allowing only 10 licenses for regional marijuana pharmacies can be a hardship on patients who have to travel. Bills advanced by the committee address that criticism in different ways.

Rep. Joe Marino, an independent from Gretna, won approval of a bill that would expand the number of licenses from 10 to 25 with 30% of the new licenses set aside for minorities and women.

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Republican Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee of Houma pushed a bill that would keep the number of licenses at 10, but allow those pharmacists licensed to open second locations within their regions when their patient counts hit 5,000. A currently unissued 10th license would go to Jefferson Parish.

Magee’s legislation also would shift regulation of the state medical marijuana program from the state Department of Agriculture to the state Department of Health. And it would require medical cannabis pharmacies to make home deliveries at least once a month.

“The fastest growing demographic of patients is the elderly,” Magee said. “They often need the medicine delivered to them.”

Another bill approved, by Rep. Travis Johnson, a Vidalia Democrat, would allow nurse-practitioners to write recommendations for the drug.

None of the bills that advanced increases the number of growers, now limited to the LSU and Southern agriculture centers, according to the News-Star.