BATON ROUGE—The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted, 5-1, last week in favor of House Bill 819, legislation to make medical marijuana more widely available.

The bill would make the drug more accessible by lifting regulations that require doctors to register with the state to be able recommend it and that limit its use to patients with certain diseases.

Under the bill, any state-licensed physician could recommend medical marijuana for the treatment of practically any condition.

The bill, written by Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, had already been approved by the House and now goes to the full Senate.

Sen. Fred Mills R-New Iberia, the chairman of the Senate committee, noted that the bill is a step toward treating medical marijuana more like an opioid in terms of state regulation.

“Opioids, which can kill people, can be prescribed by any licensed physician in the state,” Mills said. “For medical marijuana, physicians need a license.”

Medical marijuana, on the other hand, has been inaccessible to many patients whose conditions would justify its use.

Currently, medical marijuana is only available to patients with certain conditions, such as debilitating pain and Parkinson’s disease.

A physician’s recommendation of medical marijuana has the same effect as a prescription.

Mills worked on legislation for the legalization and accessibility of medical marijuana in previous years. He said the bill is another step to slowly make the use of medical marijuana freer by making it more easily accessible.

“We’re starting to crawl before we can walk, and, eventually, we’ll run,” said Mills.

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