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Legislature: Medical marijuana legislation dies in committee

Last Modified: Thursday, May 01, 2014 11:09 AM

By John Guidroz / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Legislation that would allow for the production, treatment and dispensing of medical marijuana in the state died in a Senate committee Wednesday.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 6-2 to involuntarily defer Senate Bill 541, by Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia.

The decision came after testimony from residents saying it would ease the pain associated with certain medical conditions. But several law enforcement officials, including the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, argued that the Food and Drug Administration should make a ruling on medical marijuana rather than on the state level.

The legislation would have allowed for 10 treatment centers, up to six production centers and a special pharmacist license for dispensing medical marijuana. It would have been available to patients who are at least 21 years old and suffer from certain medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, a seizure disorder, or nausea or vomiting from chemotherapy or terminal cancer.

The Legislature legalized the therapeutic use of marijuana in 1991. But since then, nothing has been set up to allow the drug to be dispensed to patients with a legal prescription.

Mills, a pharmacist, said 21 states have approved medical marijuana implementation. The Drug Enforcement Administration considers marijuana a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has no accepted medicinal purpose.

Mills quoted a statement from Gov. Bobby Jindal that said he was open to making medical marijuana available under strict supervision for patients who would benefit “if there is a legitimate medical need.”

Several residents told the committee how medical marijuana would help with their ongoing symptoms. Allison Newstrom, a 42-year-old Lafayette resident, said it would help her deal with the pain of chemotherapy to treat the 12 tumors found on her liver.

“We’re not here pushing legalization of recreational use,” she said.

Dr. Mark Alain Dery, medical director for an HIV clinic at Tulane University, said there is no scientific evidence to prove marijuana is a “gateway drug.” He said HIV patients “get incredible relief” from the use of medical marijuana.

“Never did I see a case of acute stoneness,” he said. “It helps their symptoms. They may eat a Twinkie, then they go to sleep.”

State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said he took “serious issue” with the mention that there is no scientific evidence indicating marijuana as a gateway drug.

“The best evidence is the people who used it over the years and say it is a gateway drug,” he said.

Caldwell said an estimated 85 percent of the serious felony cases he tried were drug, alcohol or marijuana related. He later told Mills that he had not read the legislation before testifying.

Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier said that while he applauded Mills’ effort, he said agencies like the FDA should address the issues associated with medical marijuana and “give us a path to follow.”

“We want people to get the help (they) need,” he said. “I don’t think it is the function of this committee to listen to medical testimony ... and make a medical determination about the efficacy of marijuana as a medical substance in this state at this point.”

Dr. Ken Roy, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Tulane, said that “any effort at medical marijuana legislation is a euphemism for legalization.”

“Someone will come behind this bill and say this is good for (attention deficit disorder),” he said. “I can see everyone saying, ‘Can I have a prescription for marijuana too?’ ”

Mills reminded lawmakers about Act 314, which was approved in 2009. It regulates the sale of products that contain pesudoephedrine, a component used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

“If you ever go to the drug store and buy some Sudafed, it’s a hassle,” he said. “We came up with our own database system ... and tracking mechanism.”

Voting to defer Mills’ legislation were Sens. R.L. “Bret” Allain, R-Franklin, Sherri Buffington, R-Keithville, Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas, and Ben Nevers, D-Boglausa.

Mills and Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, opposed deferring the bill.

Posted By: Heather Downs On: 5/1/2014

Title: Legalize Marijuana

I have been reading studies on marijuana, this herb has a lot of medical uses. People that are suffering form some
form of cancer to people with glaucoma and also it helps in several other medical problems too. If this herb which people
now call it a drug has so many helpful medical issues why not pass this law. I know medical marijuana would be abused
by some by others that need it should not be penilzed for the abusers!

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