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Hearing finds little legislative support for medical marijuana

BATON ROUGE, La., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Proposals to legalize marijuana for medical use in Louisiana would pass if put to a public vote, a state lawmaker told a legislative committee hearing.

Following a four-hour hearing, however, members of the committee said the likelihood of legislators approving such a change was unlikely, the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported Wednesday.

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The hearing by the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice was called at the request of Democratic state Rep. Dalton Honore to discuss the possibility of legalizing medical uses of marijuana.

Honore said he was not advocating the legalization of marijuana, but only wanted to request a study about legalizing medical use.

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"This state is behind on medical marijuana use," he said. "If I had my choice today, I'd say let's put it to the people of the state of Louisiana to vote on. And I would assure you it would pass."

Members of the public who addressed the committee expressed opposing opinions about legalizing medical marijuana use.

Studies have found increased risks for schizophrenia and heart attacks for marijuana users, said Rochelle Head-Dunham, assistant secretary of the state department of health. Mark Alain Dery, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Tulane University, criticized her remarks, saying he would like to prescribe the drug for his HIV/AIDS patients.

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A woman said she was considering moving to Colorado so her daughter could have access to the type of marijuana she needs to control her chronic seizures.

By the end of the hearing, Democratic Rep. Austin Badon said there was little possibility the Legislature would legalize marijuana. He is sponsoring a bill to loosen penalties for people convicted more than once of simple marijuana possession.

Chairman Joe Lopinto agreed, but said he was willing to consider the idea.

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