Lousiana was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana, first back in 1978, and again in 1991, but regulations for planting and dispensing were never written. A recent bill in the state is gaining momentum and would effectively allow patients to access non-smokeable forms of marijuana in one of the state's 10 dispensaries. A similar bill did not pass in the Senate last year, but after hearing emotional testimonies from suffering patients and families, along with the confidence of the governor's approval, the bill was not contested this year.
The difference maker, Mills said, was collaboration on the bill over the last several months with the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association. The influential lobby group opposed the bill last year, but its official stance this year was to remain neutral. Moreover, the association's executive director, Mike Ranatza, sat by Mills' side during the debate in committee. He spoke favorably about how the drug can possibly help patients who need it. Ranatza was especially moved, he said, after a colleague's daughter died of cancer within the last year after having asked him to find a way to make marijuana legally accessible to patients like her.