No Prescription Medication in Louisiana Is Taxed, So Why Would We Tax Medical Marijuana?

Medical Marijuana” by “Caveman Chuck” Coker is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

On Tuesday, Louisiana’s House of Representatives passed legislation HB 514 which will impose a 4.45% sales tax on raw, smokable flower bought by medical marijuana patients. The bill is tied to HB 391 which would legalize the sale of smokable medical marijuana in Louisiana. 

Currently, medical marijuana patients in Louisiana can only purchase non-smokable forms of cannabis, like tinctures, topical creams, gummies, and inhalers. None of these forms of medical marijuana are taxed, and none will be with the new legislation. Only raw smokable marijuana flower will be subject to the 4.45% tax. 

Both bills were authored by Republican Senator and Speaker Pro-Tem Tanner Magee, who was inspired to write the bills because he wants to increase access for patients. “Right now, the current program only produces really expensive medication that’s typically not covered by insurance, so people that want it, only affluent people can purchase it,” Magee explained. 

Raw smokable flower is cheaper to manufacture and sell than current marijuana product offerings in Louisiana because it involves less processing. Because of this, Magee argues it could be sold for a more affordable price. 

While Magee’s bill to legalize smokable marijuana has been hailed as a major breakthrough for medical marijuana access in the state, legislators and constituents have criticized the tax added to smokable flower as a deterrent to that access. 

Louisiana Senator Karen Carter Peterson wrote on Twitter, “Why would we tax medicine? HB514 would put a tax on medical Cannabis. It would be the only medication taxed in Louisiana. We can not tax on the backs of our people and our veterans. Just got out of committee 7-2…” 

The opposition to the bill argues that medical marijuana should be treated like medicine. It’s a substance people rely on, and no roadblocks should be put in the way of patients who need it to alleviate their medical conditions. Why should it be the only medication in Louisiana that’s taxed? 

People rely on medical marijuana to alleviate debilitating conditions that cause them pain, nausea, and suffering. “You spend six months in a chemo room with a bunch of patients who are suffering, it really gives you a perspective of the need to give all the relief we can to this population,” said Republican Representative Buddy Mincey. “This is something that’s needed.”

Democratic Representative Jason Hughes spoke of how former Governor Kathleen Blanco used medical marijuana when she was in hospice care, struggling with cancer, before passing away in 2019. Hughes said that marijuana “really gave her comfort” at the end of her life.

Louisianans deserve that comfort, they deserve not to suffer if there is a medication available that can help them, but because of the high cost of medical marijuana, many have been unjustly denied relief. 

The main deterrent for patients interested in Louisiana’s medical marijuana program has been how expensive medical marijuana products are in the state. The medicine is not covered by insurance and can end up being hundreds of dollars a month. 

In 2019, a month-long supply of medical marijuana could cost as much as $400. Since then, the price has reduced, but not by much. Not enough that patients on disability and fixed incomes can rationally purchase the medication. 

In response to countless complaints, Ruston Henry of New Orleans medical marijuana dispensary, H&W Drugs, slashed prices by 25%. “When you have a patient that saying because of the price I will need to not take my medicine that’s a problem as a pharmacist,” said Henry “The people we service are a desperate population so now there is hope, at H&W we say we try and give people back their lives.” 

Neurologist Chad Domangue commented, “I’ve seen people cry in my office about how it helps them sleep, depression, and pain so forth, but then after a month or two as people come into my clinic crying because they can’t afford $180 a month.” 

Domangue believes that it’s not just the high prices that need to change, but also that there need to be more suppliers in the state, more dispensaries, and insurance companies need to widen their coverage. “As physicians, we’re being told there’s too many opioids, there’s too many opioids, but the alternatives such as marijuana and other noninvasive options we have, you can’t get them covered or paid for,” said Domangue.

Representative Magee touched on this, highlighting how medical marijuana is a solution to the opioid epidemic. “The alternative is opioids, it’s hydrocodone, it’s a highly addictive medication that’s been so destructive in people’s lives that this is really a cheaper alternative, less destructive prescription that’s available,” Magee said.

Representative Magee has made it clear, over and over again, that the main motivation for expanding Louisana’s medical marijuana program to include smokable flower is that it will be less expensive. Why then add a tax to make it more expensive? Louisianans should have access to affordable, untaxed medical marijuana because it’s medication they need, and there should be no monetary barriers in the way of them getting it. 

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *