Medical cannabis runs into problems with Louisiana physician, nursing boards

The Louisiana Illuminator reports

Disagreement ensues over marijuana being Schedule I or Schedule II drug

Despite passing new laws designed to give patients easier access to medical marijuana, state legislators continue to run into bureaucratic obstacles with the various regulatory bodies that oversee medicine in Louisiana. 

The legislature’s Medical Marijuana Commission met Friday to address problems with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners and Louisiana State Board of Nursing. 

Dr. Vincent Culotta, executive director of the Board of Medical Examiners, surprised lawmakers when he told them his organization still requires doctors to set in-person appointments for patients seeking medical marijuana despite a new law passed this year that was supposed to loosen the rules to allow virtual visits. 

The Board of Examiners considers marijuana a Schedule II drug, and the rules for prescribing Schedule II drugs require at least one in-person visit to establish a doctor-patient relationship prior to conducting any telemedicine appointments, Culotta said. 

Federal laws classify controlled substances into five categories or schedules. The federal government has long considered marijuana a Schedule I drug, meaning a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. 

Culotta said Louisiana passed a law a few years ago that classified medical marijuana as a Schedule II drug. Therefore, the board applies its Schedule II prescription rules to medical cannabis, which require in-person visits. 

However, lawmakers on the Medical Marijuana Commission seemed unable to recall or find the law Culotta referenced. 

Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna, who chairs the commission, said the legislature never classified marijuana as Schedule II. 

“There’s no requirement that there has to be an in-person visit,” Marino said.

Culotta told the commission that the Board of Medical Examiners can change the rule at the direction of the legislature, but the board currently treats marijuana as a Schedule II drug for purposes of physician “recommendation,” which is the term Louisiana law uses for the prescription of medical marijuana.

Marino pushed back. 

“I think we [already] did change it, and we did say that telemedicine — it’s not restricted,” Marino said. “You’re adding something to it that I don’t believe that the legislation intended to do.”

Rep. Travis Johnson, D-Vidalia, said the legislature has worked for several years to expand health care and medical marijuana to rural communities. 

“We tried to fix that because we acknowledged how difficult it’s been for some people to have access to medicine,” Johnson said. 

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Medical marijuana runs into problems with Louisiana physician, nursing boards

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