That’s the most logical conclusion that can be drawn from the Louisiana Legislature’s passage of HB 819 by Republican state Rep. Larry Bagley, which awaits concurrence and gubernatorial assent to become law. Because nothing else can explain why something almost useless in addressing medical maladies suddenly becomes considered a wonder drug whose manufacture the state happens to control.
In the past couple years since the Legislature created a viable production and distribution system (subject to, naturally, the usual politicking) its legal use has expanded rapidly from just a handful of state-vetted “recommending” physicians (because the federal government bans its use in any form with one narrow exception, so doctors in Louisiana cannot prescribe it) for a small number of maladies to now on the brink of anything goes. Bagley’s bill basically allows any physician to recommend it for any reason.
The form legalized is cannabidiol (CBD), which has next to no psychotropic effects. But rules attached to manufacture don’t specify a maximum dose proportion of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) included, even as the law empowers establishing such an upper band, which produces such effects. Current production from the state’s sole producer cranks out medication with a THC level of 1 percent, while over-the-counter supplements don’t exceed 0.3 percent (by contrast, a 2016 measure of seized illegal plants pegged the level at over 13 percent).
So, by dramatically expanding access to the program, the Legislature makes it much easier to hoot up legally. Certainly, it would take a lot more consumption to get the same high, but undoubtedly scam artists, if not already doing so, will collude with “patients” (perhaps even doctors?) to acquire and distribute the megadoses required. Only cost considerations will dampen this, but there may be some individuals willing to pay premium prices to avoid obtaining a purer product off the streets.
But the real scam comes in that research continues to verify that the CBD component has almost no medicinal value, including in almost all instances pain management. Study after study, with very few exceptions, show whatever malady medical marijuana is supposed to palliate either is not affected significantly by it or has matters made worse by ingesting or applying the legal ganja.
Perhaps that’s why Bagley and others stumping for the bill framed it more in terms of its solving a presumed problem more generally of pain management. They claimed it could offer an alternative to the use of opioids, abusing prescription of which has become a bogeyman in recent years (and, of course, is a myth).
Except that this alleged substitution effect has no social science data to back it up. Yet legislators still largely fell in line with the propaganda of bill supporters, because it makes it look like they are doing something about a presumed problem when in fact, in practical terms, all they have done is sold false hope to people who think medical marijuana will cure whatever ill or necessarily will ease their pains.
Naturally, it can’t hurt that these deluded folks might become more likely to vote for approving politicians in future elections; it’s always so much easier for an elected official to look like he’s doing something about something that actually doesn’t do anything than genuinely make a substantive contribution. But such a course in this instance also might boost the state’s bottom line.
That's because all medical marijuana recommendations made must be filled at (presently) nine designated pharmacies that only may order product from (at present) one state-authorized distributor, contracted on behalf of the Louisiana State University System (the Southern University System is to have another go online at some point). The more recommendations that need filling, the more the LSU System contractor must crank out.
And, therefore, the more product manufactured, the more self-generated revenues the higher education system receives. And, the more self-generated revenues the system receives, the less it needs to rely upon taxpayer dollars to operate. And the fewer taxpayer dollars these systems suck in, the more remain available to pay for other stuff. Plus, while exempt from sales tax, the state levies on the product a special 7 percent tax that does to fund services for people with disabilities, which frees even more general fund money for other uses.
Therefore, Louisiana has every incentive to push this patent medicine on everybody for anything. You’ll know the scam is working maximally when pharmacies receive a flood of recommendations for medical marijuana to treat halitosis – perhaps some of these going to bill backers as a salve treating the effects of all the hot air they have dispensed about it.