Lack of medical marijuana sufferers, excessive expense worries Louisiana lawmakers

State lawmakers expressed issues over the value of medical marijuana Friday at a Louisiana Medical Marijuana Fee assembly on the state Capitol.

The fee met to debate legal guidelines and rules affecting the state’s medical marijuana program, however legislators took a eager curiosity in low enrollment and the price for sufferers.

The Louisiana Division of Agriculture and Forestry is the lead company within the licensure and manufacturing of medical marijuana in Louisiana. LDAF Commissioner Mike Pressure testified {that a} central drawback to mitigating prices is that marijuana nonetheless is an unlawful drug.

“It’s possible you’ll surprise why this isn’t coated by Medicaid, Medicare and insurance coverage. It’s as a result of it isn’t a prescription product, it’s a advice product,” Pressure stated. “There’s a high-quality line there.”

Pressure stated physicians can’t write prescriptions as a result of medical marijuana has not been authorized by the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration, thus authorities and personal insurance coverage received’t cowl the prices.

In line with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Company, marijuana is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, together with heroin, LSD, ecstasy and different unlawful substances. Thirty-five states have some type of authorized marijuana use – medical, leisure or each – lawmakers stated.

Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, stated he appreciated the challenges related to the federal unlawful designation, however urged Pressure to do extra.

“I believe we have to provide you with some options and suggestions out of your division that may alleviate a few of these issues,” McFarland stated.

Pressure responded that lawmakers may reduce an end-user tax.

“There’s a 7% tax on the finish that you may remove instantly, legislatively,” Pressure stated.

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Pressure defined how ldl cholesterol and hypertension remedy can price $600 however shoppers don’t pay that quantity when its coated by insurance coverage. That’s not the case with medical marijuana, he stated.

“For the common household, this isn’t paid for by every other mechanism apart from money,” Pressure stated.

McFarland countered that Arkansas, a neighboring state, has 90,000 medical marijuana sufferers whereas Louisiana has solely 12,000 sufferers.

“Since 2015, we’ve handed 11 completely different acts amending and bettering this course of for the general public. Extra states are approaching board and they aren’t having to do all this,” McFarland stated. “Arkansas is years forward of us. Mississippi and Texas are approaching; it’s not exhausting for folks to drive throughout state strains.”

Rep. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia, stated excessive costs may help the marijuana “black market.”

Louisiana permits medical marijuana for sufferers with outlined well being circumstances, resembling most cancers, HIV, seizure issues, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma and PTSD. Lawmakers advised many eligible folks would not have cheap entry to the medical therapy.

Fee chair Joseph Marino, I-Gretna, stated the state’s manufacturing and distribution system has “near no competitors” and that “folks have very, little or no choices.”

“If we had extra entry and extra choices with the growers and dispensaries, you’ll suppose the price would come down,” Marino informed Pressure.

In line with the LDAF, Louisiana has solely two licensees who’re licensed to develop and domesticate medical marijuana within the state. Each are universities: Louisiana State College Agricultural Middle and Southern College Agriculture Middle.

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Louisiana additionally has solely 9 dispensaries the place sufferers should buy medical marijuana. They’re unfold throughout completely different areas.

“If someone has to drive an hour or hour and a half … they could determine it’s not definitely worth the effort,” Marino stated. “The affected person quantity would in all probability be larger if it was extra accessible and inexpensive.”

Pressure stated he believed growing demand hinges on extra medical doctors approving medical marijuana to deal with their sufferers.

“We now have to teach physicians, and so they should be comfy writing suggestions,” Pressure stated.

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