NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A push to expand Louisiana's medical marijuana law is one step closer to becoming a reality. A bill passed a House committee Thursday that would add PTSD and chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions. While advocates say it could help fight the opioid epidemic, opponents say not so fast.
If one Louisiana lawmaker has his way, the state's medical marijuana law would be expanded to include glaucoma, PTSD, chronic pain and severe muscle spasms as qualifying conditions. Also, inhalation would be allowed as a delivery method. That means patients would be able to use the therapeutic cannabis with a vaporizer or inhaler.
"We do have research that indicates that the more we expand medical marijuana, especially with intractable pain, it leads to reduced opioid prescriptions, it leads to reductions in, did I say reduces, it leads to reductions in opioid usage, opioid addiction," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Edward James, D-Baton Rouge.
David Brown with Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana also testified before the House committee Thursday about the benefits of using medical marijuana to fight the opioid crisis.
"We have seen 25% or 24.8% reductions in opioid overdose deaths in those states where there is a functioning marijuana program in place," said Brown.
A number of veterans also spoke in favor of the bill.
"It's was an eye-opening experience for me and it's one I have been dealing with ever since. The wounds of war are not always physical. PTSD is a serious disease that affects veterans across Louisiana. They are in desperate need of help and waiting and seeing whether or not this bill is going to help them. I just plead with you to please pass this Bill 579 and get help to those veterans as soon as possible," said Jonathan Brown with Louisiana Veterans for Medical Cannabis.
There were also plenty of opponents.
"Like I said, you can testify here today that this is the magic potion that would just cure everything but I don't believe that," said Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton.
Medical marijuana has already been approved for those with cancer, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and some other conditions. It could be available to patients in Louisiana as soon as this summer.
The bill passed the House Health and Welfare Committee Thursday by a 8-4 vote. It now heads to the full House.