Louisiana may become the first state in the South to legalize medical marijuana

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Late Thursday, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow for the legalization of medical marijuana in that state, and the signs are that Republican Governor Bobby Jindal will sign it.

“Our view on medical marijuana was it had to be supervised and had to be a legitimate medical purpose and this bill meets that criteria,” the governor said while the bill and its amendments were being debated in late May.

If Jindal does indeed sign the bill, he will make Louisiana the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana, and he will be the first governor in the South to make the bold move.

There is, of course, one slight catch in the law. Provisions included in the law require patients to obtain a prescription for the marijuana, as opposed to other laws in other states that only require the recommendation of a doctor.

Robert J. Capecchi, the deputy director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said on Friday that the stipulation requiring a prescription could effectively make the law a moot point.

“Under current federal law, no physician, even in medical marijuana states, can write a ‘prescription’ for marijuana without the risk of losing her or his right to prescribe drugs, or worse,” Capecchi said in an email. “That’s why the workable medical marijuana programs require a physician to ‘recommend’ that their patient use medical marijuana.”

“This recommendation,” he said, “is protected speech under the First Amendment, then serves as the evidence that a doctor has examined the patient, determined that he or she suffers from a qualifying condition, and that the patient would benefit from using medical marijuana in adherence to state law.”

A 2014 survey conducted by researchers at Louisiana State University found that 79% of residents favored legalizing medical marijuana, with just 19% opposed. Those numbers are nearly identical to the national figures.