Read full article at: Marijuana Business Daily
A key legislative panel advanced an amendment to the full House for consideration that would protect all state-legal cannabis programs from interference by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The U.S. House Rules Committee cleared the amendment for a full House vote as it passed the fiscal year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill by an 8-4 margin late Tuesday.
The spending bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Justice Department from using funds to go after state-legal medical cannabis businesses.
The amendment to protect the lawful adult-use industry as well as MMJ programs was submitted by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, and Tom McClintock, a California Republican.
A Blumenauer amendment that would prevent the Justice Department from cracking down on Veterans Affairs doctors who recommend medical cannabis in lawful states also is heading to the full House for a vote.
Spending bill provisions offer protections for only a year, however.
Industry officials are lobbying for longer-lasting protections for state-legal marijuana programs, such as through the STATES Act.
Original article by Mark Ballard at TheAdvocate.com
With an amendment, the Senate Monday reversed its opposition to allowing patients to inhale medical marijuana.
Senators voted 21-14 Saturday to strike inhalation, then killed the bill. On Monday the Senate included inhaling then advanced the legislation on a vote of 31-7.
St. Martin Parish Republican Sen. Fred Mills brought House Bill 358 back up Monday and added language that dosage could only be taken using a metered dose inhaler.
“You’re not smoking at all, it’s just a puff of the medication,” Mills said. “It’s just the delivery form of the concentration of the medicine.”
Medical marijuana patients take their doses orally. Inhaling allows the medicine to hit the system faster, he said.
Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said when the program to allow the use of marijuana products for medicinal purposes a few years ago, promises were made that patients wouldn’t be allowed to inhale marijuana. The products are used to combat pain and seizures.
Mills’ amendment was approved on a 30-7 vote.
House Bill 358 by Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. Ted James would have let therapeutic cannabis patients use an inhaler, like asthma patients use. The House overwhelmingly had agreed to the inhalation proposal.
The original language in HB358 was not tight, but the amendments added enough restrictions, said Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles. “This is not inhaling raw marijuana,” he said.
Medicinal-grade pot isn’t yet available to patients. Regulatory disagreements slowed getting the product to shelves, with estimates it could be available later this month.
Voting to allow inhaling medical marijuana (31): President Alario and Sens. Allain, Barrow, Bishop, Boudreaux, Carter, Chabert, Colomb, Cortez, Donahue, Erdey, Gatti, Hensgens, Hewitt, Johns, LaFleur, Lambert, Luneau, Martiny, Mills, Morrell, Morrish, Peacock, Peterson, Price, Riser, G. Smith, J. Smith, Tarver, Ward and White.
Voting against HB358 (7): Sens Appel, Claitor, Fannin, Long, Milkovich, Thompson and Walsworth.
Not Voting (1): Sen Mizell
Original article by Sam Karlin at TheAdvocate.com
Louisiana lawmakers have agreed to legalize the growth of hemp and allow the sale of some CBD products, sending two pieces of legislation to the governor’s desk that would lay out a highly-regulated program in line with the federal farm bill.
State Rep. Clay Schexnayder’s House Bill 491, which was heavily rewritten in the Senate, won final approval from the House Monday. The bill lays out a tightly-regulated program for growing hemp, with oversight from the state Agriculture Department.
Another bill by Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, would exempt hemp grown in line with federal regulations from the legal definition of marijuana and defines the drug. House Bill 138 is headed to the governor’s desk.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has voiced support for allowing and regulating the growth of hemp.
Hemp comes from the same species of plant, Cannabis Sativa, as marijuana. Unlike marijuana, however, hemp does not have enough THC to get users high. Instead, it is used in a wide range of industrial products, textiles, fuels and other products. Producers also extract Cannabidiol, or CBD, from hemp, infusing the chemical with oils, tinctures, lotions, food products and others.
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain would have broad regulatory powers over the hemp program, creating rules, handling permits and destroying crops that don’t meet THC thresholds. Strain has said the program will be tightly-regulated and in line with federal rules.
Supporters have touted the legislation as a potential boon to Louisiana farmers.
“When our farmers are having a down year, they’ll be able to grow a crop that will be successful,” Schexnayder said in a recent hearing on the bill.
The sale of CBD products has spread in Louisiana in recent years, but in a legal gray area. State agencies have disagreed on whether CBD products, which don’t get users high, are legally distinguishable from marijuana. Supporters have said CBD has health benefits, and while the products have become increasingly available to consumers, some state agencies have cracked down on their sale.
Sales of CBD products have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, culminating in the high-profile arrest of a CBD seller in Lafayette last month.
Connick’s bill distinguishes CBD and marijuana, and Schexnayder’s bill lays out a list of regulations for selling CBD products. The products would be regulated by the Louisiana Department of Health and Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control under the bill.
Schexnayder’s bill was rewritten multiple times in the Senate.
The 2018 federal farm bill laid out a process for states to grow hemp, and Louisiana is expected to submit a plan to the USDA by November if the governor signs off on the proposal.
The legislation bans selling CBD in beverages unless the Food and Drug Administration approves of it as a food additive, and also prohibits CBD products marketed as dietary supplements. CBD products would have to come from hemp grown under a state program outlined by either the 2014 or 2018 farm bill and meet certain labeling requirements.
Penalties for processing or selling CBD products that don’t meet the requirements in the rule would take effect Jan. 1, 2020. Currently, CBD products are sold throughout Louisiana despite some state officials, including Strain, dubbing them illegal.
Read the full article at: https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/legislature/article_8a8ea0e8-8646-11e9-a7e8-2343d72c48f5.html
Medical marijuana sales there are expected to begin this Sunday, May 12, 2019. Arkansas voters approved therapeutic Cannabis on November 8, 2016. Louisiana’s legislature approved of the modern therapeutic Cannabis program by passage of SB 143 in the summer of 2015 and signature of then Governor Bobby Jindal on June 29, 2015. So it looks like Arkansas is going to beat Louisiana to implementation by at least a full year.
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – A simmering feud between one of Louisiana’s medical marijuana growers and the program’s regulator has spilled into the Legislature. Lawmakers are considering reworking oversight of therapeutic cannabis to end disagreements that have slowed release to patients.
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain and Louisiana State University’s grower GB Sciences aired ongoing disputes Tuesday in the House health committee.
The hearing was contentious, with the two sides trading accusations. It wrapped up with lawmakers voting 6-4 for a proposal to strip Strain’s agriculture department of regulatory authority and give that oversight job to the health department.
The measure by Rep. Dustin Miller moves to the House floor.
Miller, an Opelousas Democrat, is frustrated that four years have passed since lawmakers created the framework for dispensing therapeutic cannabis and marijuana still hasn’t reached patients.
Read the original at: http://www.wbrz.com/news/medical-marijuana-tensions-spill-into-louisiana-legislature
Dozens of medical professionals in five states were charged Wednesday with participating in the illegal prescribing of more than 32 million pain pills, including doctors who prosecutors said traded sex for prescriptions and a dentist who unnecessarily pulled teeth from patients to justify giving them opioids.
The 60 people indicted include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals. The charges involve more than 350,000 illegal prescriptions written in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia, according to indictments unsealed in federal court in Cincinnati.
“That is the equivalent of one opioid dose for every man, woman and child in the five states in the region that we’ve been targeting,” Brian Benczkowski, an assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview. “If these medical professionals behave like drug dealers, you can rest assured that the Justice Department is going to treat them like drug dealers.”
The charges include unlawful distribution or dispensing of controlled substances by a medical professional and health-care fraud. Each count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, and many of the defendants face multiple counts. One doctor in Tennessee is charged in connection with an overdose death caused by opioids, officials said.
The indictments are part of a broader effort by the Justice Department to combat the nation’s prescription pain pill epidemic, which claimed the lives of nearly 218,000 Americans between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Over the past two years, Justice Department officials said they have targeted doctors, health-care companies and drug manufacturers and distributors for their roles in the epidemic. Last year, the department charged 162 defendants, including 76 doctors, for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics.
Benczkowski said he created the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force late last year to target the region, which has been devastated by the epidemic. The department analyzed several databases to identify suspicious prescribing activity and sent 14 prosecutors to 11 federal districts there.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement.
Once they had the data indicating suspicious prescriptions, investigators used confidential informants and undercover agents to infiltrate medical offices across the region. Cameras and tape recorders were rolling as they documented how medical professionals used their licenses to peddle highly addictive opioids in exchange for cash and sex, officials said. The arrests began early Wednesday morning.
In one case, a doctor operated a pharmacy in his office, just outside the exam room, where patients could fill their prescriptions for opioids immediately after receiving cursory exams, according to the Justice Department. In another, prosecutors said, patients consented to having their teeth pulled so they could obtain opioid prescriptions from a dentist and then paid in cash.
In a number of cases, according to the indictments, doctors across the region traded prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone for sexual favors. Some physicians instructed their patients to fill multiple prescriptions at different pharmacies. Prosecutors also documented how patients traveled to multiple states to see different doctors so they could collect and then fill numerous prescriptions.
“What these doctors have done is pretty remarkable in its brazenness,” Benczkowski said.
In Dayton, Ohio, which has been hit particularly hard, a doctor who authorities say was the state’s highest prescriber of controlled substances, along with several pharmacists, was charged with operating a “pill mill.” Prosecutors say that the health-care professionals dispensed more than 1.7 million pills between October 2015 and October 2017.
In Tennessee, a doctor who branded himself the “Rock Doc,” allegedly prescribed dangerous combinations of opioids and benzodiazepines, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors. Over the course of three years, prosecutors say he prescribed nearly 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches and more than 600,000 benzodiazepines.
In Alabama, a doctor allegedly recruited prostitutes and other young women to become patients at his clinic and allowed them to use drugs at his home, prosecutors said. Another Alabama doctor allegedly prescribed opioids in high doses and charged a “concierge fee” of $600 per year to be one of his patients.
Prosecutors allege that a doctor in Kentucky prescribed pain killers to his Facebook friends who would come to his home to pick up their prescriptions in exchange for cash.
Prosecutors also said some health-care professionals prescribed opioids for themselves. An orthopedic surgeon in West Virginia allegedly wrote fraudulent prescriptions for pain pills using the name of a relative and a stolen driver’s license from a colleague. In Pennsylvania, a state outside the targeted region, prosecutors say a nurse filled out phony prescriptions for oxycodone in her name and in the names of others to obtain pills for herself.
The arrests could leave thousands of addicts and legitimate pain patients without access to their doctors and health-care professionals. Federal and local public health officials say they are working together to “ensure continuity of care.”
“It is also vital that Americans struggling with addiction have access to treatment and that patients who need pain treatment do not see their care disrupted,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
The opioid indictments come as more than 1,500 cities, counties, Native American tribes and unions are suing drug companies in one of the largest and most complicated civil cases in U.S. history.
A federal judge in Cleveland is overseeing the cases, which accuse some of the biggest names in the industry of fueling the opioid epidemic by failing to report suspicious orders of narcotics and falsely marketing opioids to pain patients. The companies have blamed the epidemic on corrupt doctors and pain management clinics and say the epidemic is too complicated to attribute to their actions.
Justice officials Wednesday did not discuss the companies that have supplied opioids to the Appalachian region. Benczkowski said this investigation targeted medical professionals because they were “the gatekeepers to the patients.”
“But obviously, if there are doctors or others who give us information working backward up the chain in the course of this case or any other case we’re going to be interested in hearing what they have to say,” he said.
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BATON ROUGE – Louisiana’s agriculture and forestry commissioner has drawn his first announced challenger for the fall election, an opponent slamming his management of medical marijuana. Charlie Greer ran unsuccessfully four years ago against Republican Commissioner Mike Strain and announced Monday he’ll again oppose Strain on the Oct. 12 ballot.
Greer is a Democrat from Natchitoches (NAK’-a-dish) Parish and a farmer who worked in the Department of Agriculture and Forestry for 20 years before retiring in 2013.
In his announcement, Greer criticizes Strain for his regulation of Louisiana’s medical marijuana program. Though lawmakers approved a dispensing framework for cannabis nearly four years ago, medical marijuana still hasn’t reached patients.
Greer says the commissioner created unnecessary roadblocks and he’d work to lessen bureaucracy.
Strain has defended his approach, saying the regulations ensure public safety.