NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Medical marijuana supporters will have to wait up to two years before they can benefit from new legislation approved in Baton Rouge, and it will take a host of committees to decide on the rules of how to dispense it.
One Tulane doctor said he knows how medical marijuana can help his patients.
"I've seen a lot of friends and family members personally benefit," said Dr. Markalain Dery, who has lobbied for the passage of a medical marijuana bill for years. "Without question the sheriffs' support was key for this."
While many believe Louisiana has turned a cultural corner, Dery says the key to its passage was support from Louisiana sheriffs, won in part out of sympathy for the death of Lafayette sheriff's daughter Alison Neustrom, who testified in support of the bill last year, but died before it passed.
"Had she not passed the way she passed, we would probably still be at the first square," Dery said.
The bill, now called the Alison Neustrom bill, will eventually allow chemotherapy and glaucoma patients, and those suffering from spastic quadriplegia, to take a marijuana pill to relieve their pain.
"It helps reduce pressures, and for people with chemotherapy, reduces the nausea," Dery said.
The implementation process may take up to two years. The state pharmacy board is now adopting rules and regulations to dispense marijuana prescriptions.
And then there's the issue of who's going to grow the marijuana - and it can't be just anyone, anywhere.
"We allowed Southern and LSU Ag Center to have first right of approval to grow it and process it," said state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans.
Supporters say this isn't about helping people get high.
"We're not giving a joint to some kid," Badon said.
Dery would like to see the list of patients who could benefit from medicinal marijuana expanded to include those being treated for epilepsy, HIV and attention deficit disorder.
"People with attention deficit have better attention and are not relying on pharmaceuticals. People with HIV have much better appetites," Dery said.
Dery is now working with advocates to see if the list of medical marijuana beneficiaries can be expanded before next year's legislative session. The Legislature has set up a mechanism for consideration of other medical marijuana patients. The state Board of Medical Examiners must submit a list of other possible eligible diseases at least 60 days before next year's session.