BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s medical marijuana program will be able to offer raw, smokable cannabis to its patients within months under a bill passed Wednesday by lawmakers trying to give the state’s residents cheaper marijuana options to alleviate their medical conditions.
The legislation by Houma Rep. Tanner Magee, the House’s second-ranking Republican, was sent to the governor’s desk with a 76-17 vote of the House. There was no debate Wednesday. The Senate earlier had approved the measure with a 23-14 vote.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has signaled he will sign the legislation.
Magee’s bill will add raw marijuana in smokable form to a list of products already available for sale at Louisiana’s medical marijuana dispensaries, which currently sell cannabis in liquids, topical applications, inhalers and edible gummies. The expansion will start in January.
The raw, smokable marijuana plant is cheaper to produce and sell because it involves less processing.
The bill represents another widening of the rules for a program that lawmakers have steadily expanded since enacting the dispensing framework in 2015.
Originally, the program was tightly limited to a few medical conditions. Under a change lawmakers passed last year, doctors in Louisiana can now recommend medical marijuana for any patient they believe it would help.
But only the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University are authorized to grow cannabis in Louisiana, and only nine dispensaries can provide it to patients. Efforts to broaden the growing operations have failed to gain traction.
A separate bill from Magee still awaiting a final decision would apply the state’s 4.45% sales tax to smokable medical marijuana products. Currently, none of the medical marijuana items for sale are taxed.
The bill is filed as House Bill 391.