After 3+ hours of testimony, we counted votes and though it was close, we made the very difficult determination that it was better to withdraw the bill and save it to perhaps be re-introduced into the House Health & Welfare Committee at a later date during the 2016 legislative session. HB 1112’s supporters had come from far across the state and from out of state to help push this bill and patients across the state had invested a lot of hope in passage. Nevertheless, facing staunch opposition from both the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association and the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association we knew that a majority of committee members were unwilling to break ranks and vote in favor of improved public health. So, we did our interviews and bid farewell to our supporters and friends. We thanked the committee members who were prepared to vote with us and we walked over to meet with Senator Fred Mills. As the sponsor of SB 271 and the author of SB 143 which was enacted and signed into our existing therapeutic Cannabis law, he was our best hope to keep faith alive for this session.
It was a good meeting. We have tried for the past week to amend the bill in various ways, but to no avail. The margin for victory, it seems, is too close. It is believed by some that with such a slim margin for passage, we cannot afford to amend the bill and risk losing in defeat. It would appear that incrementalism rules the day again and still, after 38 long years, we may not reach the finish line. This bill will have to be amended to expand the disease states, expand legal protections for all parties involved, open up the market so that it isn’t quite as protectionist or monopolistic as it now is, make sure that the medicine can work for all who need it and much more. It is not a great bill. There’s no other way to say it. However, it does represent an improvement over last year and quite possibly mean that some therapeutic Cannabis or “medical marijuana” will make it’s way to Louisianans in need.
SB 271 will be heard in the H H&W Committee on Wednesday, May 3rd sometime after 9:00am. Stay tuned for more information on this and other related measures. Thanks for all you do and we’ll keep you posted!