Louisiana regulators remove 100-patient limit for physicians

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More Louisiana residents should have easier access to medical marijuana after state regulators got rid of the rule on Monday that limited the number of patients to which physicians can recommend cannabis.

The Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) met Monday to discuss changing rules that currently restrict patient access to medical cannabis, including the cap previously in place that restricted physicians from recommending marijuana to more than 100 of their patients. Dr. Victor Chou, one of the first physicians to receive a license to recommend cannabis in Louisiana told the board that he reached that limit in only two weeks after opening his clinic in Baton Rouge.

“I have a waiting list of 700 patients,” Chou said.

The board also agreed to get rid of the rule that requires patients who use medical marijuana to see their physician once every 90 days to renew their order.

“I understand there is not a lot of data, but I am trying to exercise my statutorily granted rights,” said Jacob Irving, a patient advocate with muscle spasticity from cerebral palsy. “These are limitations that are being placed between myself and my physician. Having to go in every 90 days, as a young professional, is inconvenient for me.”

Irving and other advocates are concerned about the laws currently in place that limit patients who want access to every option available. There are currently only 47 doctors in the entire state who have been given permission to recommend cannabis. While marijuana remains a controlled Schedule I substance, it is not technically legal for doctors to prescribe marijuana.

The 100-patient rule was based on similar guidelines for doctors prescribing Soboxone to patients, a medication used for treating opioid addiction. Dr. Roderick Clark, vice president of the LSBME said that this rule doesn’t correlate with cannabis.

“If we are going to treat this as a drug or medication, then the physician should be responsible to treat that patient responsibly within his scope of practice,” Clark said.

The board also discussed lifting the rule requiring families of pediatric patients wanting to use cannabis to treat extreme symptoms from an autism spectrum disorder to see a pediatric subspecialist.

Darilyn Schieffler, a grandmother to three children with autism was one of the people to show up to the meeting and said that of the 10 to 15 doctors she reached out to who were licensed to recommend cannabis, not one was accepting pediactric patients.

“There is new research that these kids can be helped with medical marijuana,” said Schieffler to the board. “These kids need help. There are a lot of them who are not being controlled with the medications.”

A request has been made to the board by a group of parents to look into this issue at October’s meeting.

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