The distribution of medical marijuana could soon be legal in the state.
Under the current law, it's legal to prescribe medical marijuana, but there's no system for dispensing it. Pending legislation would set rules on dispensing, growing and regulating medical marijuana.
The legislation is swiftly moving through the capitol with support from the Louisiana Sheriff's Association. On May 4, the Senate approved Senate Bill 143 by Parks Republican, Sen. Fred Mills Jr., 22-13, after passing through the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.
Supporters of the bill say it's long overdue, but some are also pushing for the legislation to cover more medical conditions. Right now pending legislation would legalize marijuana for glaucoma, spastic cerebral palsy and cancer patients.
"I support it personally because I grew up with an older sister who has cerebral palsy," Marijuana Policy Project volunteer Katie Mayers said. "Seeing people like that who could really benefit, opened my eyes to it."
But Mayers is also pushing for the legislation to cover more illnesses.
"There are so many other patients that it would benefit from it; people who experience seizures, epilepsy and brain tumors," Mayers said.
Mayers said her own medical condition is covered with medical marijuana in 21 other states. Nine years ago she was in a car crash and has been using multiple prescription drugs since.
"I had surgery and a plate put in my neck and three months after surgery, I re-injured myself when I fell down cement stairs," Mayers said. "I was hospitalized 17 times for nausea and extreme pain."
At 29, Mayers is considered disabled. She said she has tried medical marijuana while in another state where it is legal and doesn't think she would be dependent on her current prescription drugs if she could legally take medical marijuana in Louisiana.
"It happened in my 20's so I will have to continue taking pharmaceuticals for many years," Mayers said. "I don't want the long-term effects of prescription medication."
Mills said amendments to include more medical conditions are possible, but not likely.
"I don't think it will happen, but with democracy, you never know," Mills said. "I think for this year, it will be what's currently in the bill, but next year the conversation could come up again."
Mayers said either way, she thinks the legislation is a step in the right direction.
"Whatever we have to do to get it passed," Mayers said. "There are people out there that need it."
If approved, medical marijuana would be prescribed in a non-smokable form at one of 10 dispensaries across the state. Next the bill will be up for debate in the House Committee on Health and Welfare on Wednesday at 9 a.m.