The state of Louisiana voted to legalize medical cannabis in 2015. However, it has taken years for the laws to evolve and reach a level where patients can start accessing medical cannabis. This is now likely to happen in November of this year. The barrier on how many medical cannabis patients any doctor can handle has now been removed.
Under the 2016 law, doctors with a license to recommend medical cannabis to patients were restricted to a maximum of 100 patients at a time. That limitation was found to be impractical, even before the first medical cannabis dispensaries opened.
This is because only 48 doctors have submitted their applications to join the cannabis program, and just 37 of those have been cleared to write recommendations for patients who wish to use cannabis to treat their health conditions. Approximately 4,000 patients out of the anticipated 100,000 could access a doctor for a recommendation under that restriction.
The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners saw that bottleneck and voted overwhelmingly (eight to one) to allow qualifying doctors to take on as many patients as they can. This will hopefully reduce the wait lists for patents wishing to access medical cannabis.
Another sticking point that was voted on was the follow up requirement for both medical cannabis patients and doctors. Under the old law, patients were expected to see the doctor who gave them the medical cannabis recommendation every 90 days in order to renew that recommendation.
Patients felt that this requirement was too burdensome, since it would take a lot of time to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
Medical cannabis advocates also felt that the follow up requirement was unnecessary, since the doctor wasn’t responsible for prescribing or overseeing the medical cannabis patient’s treatment. Those visits every 90 days were therefore unnecessary.
The board of medical examiners voted to remove this restriction as well. However, it was a close vote, with five regulators voting in favor while four voted against the removal of that requirement.
However, the removal of those restrictions will not on its own make it easy for patients to get a recommendation for medical cannabis. This is because, as already indicated, the number of doctors signing up for the medical cannabis program is still woefully small.
Advocacy groups are planning to conduct awareness campaigns for doctors in order to address any concerns or information gaps preventing them from joining the medical cannabis program. The state board of medical examiners is supporting this plan, spearheaded by Louisiana State University. Firms like Medical Cannabis Payment Solutions (OTC: REFG) and Sunniva Inc. (CSE: SNN) (OTCQX: SNNVF) must be wishing that all jurisdictions address cannabis issues as progressively as the state of Louisiana is doing.
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