BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana legislature passed a law that allows telehealth physicians and nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana as a treatment, but agencies are saying the rules are unclear and claim there are restrictions on what doctors can do.
The Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners Executive Director Vincent Culotta said their rules require an in-person meeting first to establish a relationship before medical marijuana can be recommended virtually. Some lawmakers who supported the bill suggested this defeats the purpose of telehealth visits and could be hard to manage for people who live in rural areas. Culotta said this is the board’s rules for Schedule II drugs, but marijuana is a Schedule I.
Culotta claims the legislature changed the schedule in past legislation. Medical Marijuana Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Marino, I-Grenta, said that is not true.
“Saying it’s not a prescription, it’s a recommendation, we all know how and why we did that, but it is a Schedule I drug. So rules that you’re applying the schedule to drugs do not apply,” said Rep. Marino.
The Board of Nursing also has yet to change their rules for approved nurse practitioners to recommend medical marijuana, despite the new law going into effect on Aug. 1. The Executive Director for the board said she was unaware of the legislation. Still, the work has begun to get the rules changed to have the list of qualified nurse practitioners listed on their website.
Lawmakers were frustrated at the concerns being raised now as opposed to during the session when the bill was debated and amended.
“But it’s discouraging to us. And we’re sitting here this morning and we’re being told, ‘well, you know, this doesn’t work, doesn’t fit within our rules,’ federal government says. The federal government also doesn’t recognize marijuana. But you got multiple states that are putting it out there,” Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, said.
Chairman Marino said the state is doing gymnastics to get medical marijuana to patients who need it, but it is difficult with the current laws in place. There is a chance for some of the laws to be clarified with new legislation in the next regular session in April 2023. He is frustrated with the slow rollout of the medical marijuana program here in Louisiana and he said the state is falling far behind other states with similar programs.