Louisiana’s State Board of Medical Examiners voted 8-1 to remove a cap established in 2016 that had limited physicians to 100 medical marijuana patients each.
MMJ patients themselves as well as physicians pressured to get the cap expanded in order to avoid a bottleneck in November 2018, when Louisiana’s medical marijuana program is expected to roll out.
Some doctors already reached their patient cap months ago, and have had to start waiting lists.
Dr. Victor Chou, who opened a clinic in Baton Rouge, reached his patient cap months ago and said hundreds of people are already on his waiting list.
“Many of them feel locked out because they either cannot find physicians or the physicians they find already have hit the 100-patient limit,” said Dr. Victor Chou, according to the Associated Press.
Only 48 doctors have submitted applications for a required state permit to recommend MMJ; so far only 31 have been approved.
Even after the decision to lift the patient cap, concerns are still rampant among those in need of medical cannabis.
With such a low number of recommending physicians, even without a patient cap, many worry there will still not be enough doctors available.
One of the only two approved grow sites in Louisiana anticipates that there could be up to 100,000 patients, especially after lawmakers added qualifying conditions earlier this year, which included glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Parkinson’s disease.
With a narrower 5-4 vote, the board that oversees physicians also removed a restriction requiring patients to revisit their doctors every 90 days to renew their recommendation.
Under a law passed in 2014 and tweaked twice since then, Louisiana is allowing therapeutic cannabis to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, a severe form of cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, epilepsy, and muscular dystrophy.