Medical marijuana bill stalls in Senate panel

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Medical marijuana still won’t be dispensed in Louisiana, after senators rejected a measure to set out guidelines for prescriptions Wednesday.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 6-2 against a proposal by Sen. Fred Mills to set up a legal framework for doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Louisiana legalized medical marijuana in 1991 for people with certain conditions, and the state health department issued regulations a year later allowing doctors to prescribe the drug.
But rules were not set up for dispensaries, so no prescriptions have been issued.
Mills, a Republican from Breaux Bridge, said the bill would pick up where lawmakers left off by setting up the mechanism for dispensing and prescribing the drug. He said the guidelines would be strict for licensing, and he said the measure would help patients who struggle with limited treatments.
"People are just looking for options," he said.
At the hearing, people with illnesses described their pain and difficult treatments and urged senators to support the bill.
Also supporting the bill were Mark Alain Dery, assistant director of clinical medicine at Tulane University, and Karla Doucet, an anesthesiologist. Both said marijuana has medicinal benefits and said labeling it as a "gateway drug" was unfounded. Doucet said the drug is a "gateway into the justice system" because the govern-ment made it that way.
Law enforcement opposed the measure, arguing it would prevent police officers from enforcing federal laws against marijuana.
In the Senate committee, only Mills and Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, voted for the measure.
Voting against it were Sens. 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-Bogalusa.

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