Mar 5, 2014 11:57 PM by Kristen Holloway

Senate Bill 541 - The Use of Medical Marijuana

This year's legislative session starts Monday and a hot topic this year is Marijuana. There are 15 bills about the "growing interest".

Highlighting just a few, House Bill 14 is aimed at amending criminal penalties. Meanwhile Senate Bill 87 is designed to increase the maximum prison term for those found guilty of possession or distribution.

Senate Bill 541, drafted by Senator Fred Mills, broadens the use of medical marijuana. Back in 1991, the Louisiana Legislature authorized and approved the use of medical marijuana for limited diseases, but Mills says there were unanswered questions. We sat down with the senator, who explains how his proposed legislation fills those gaps.

"Never did they address the issue of dispensing, prescribing and actually the distributions," said Mills.

Senator Fred Mills says that's the reason he wrote Senate Bill 541. He says it expands the use of medical marijuana here in Louisiana, however it's meant to be an option of last resort.

"If you do have a patient that's not responding to conventional therapy, there's been a demand and need to address medical marijuana and make that available to the public for specific reasons," said Mills.

In the bill those reasons include limited diseases like Epilepsy, Glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis. The proposed legislation also limits the medical use to anyone 21 or older.

"I've received emails for the last years from a lot of patients with specific disease states that have said would we consider introducing this legislation and for those folks thats why i'm doing it," said Mills.

Mills says the bill is not for recreational use; it aims specifically for medical purposes.

"It provides legal ramifications to able to do it in a legal stand point because marijuana is still a controlled federal substance, so to get the federal and state law to comply with one another to bill gives more definition to it," said Mills.

So some might ask, how will all of this be regulated? The state senator from St. Martin Parish says the bill has all angles covered.

"It will be regulated by the product itself by the Dept of Agriculture, the prescribing of it by the Board of Medical Examiners who oversee physicians, and the pharmacy side by The Board of Pharmacy who regulates the practice of pharmacy.

The bill will be heard in committee in the coming weeks, where up to 200 people will be able to testify on the bill, whether they agree or disagree with this legislation. If signed into law, it would take effect January 2015.



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