Louisiana lawmakers have advanced a proposal to protect employees who use medical cannabis from negative consequences at work.

The House Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations voted May 19 to unanimously approve Rep. Mandie Landry’s, D-New Orleans, House Bill 988, which would shield employees from being fired, as well as protect job candidates from being discriminated against, if they are a registered medical cannabis patient, according to the Louisiana Illuminator.

The legislation would not apply to law enforcement, firefighters or other public safety officials, the news outlet reported.

“There are a lot of people who don’t want to take opioids for their long-term PTSD and pain management because of the high possibility of addiction to opioids,” Landry told the Louisiana Illuminator. “This has proved to be a better option than them.”

There are currently more than 43,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Louisiana, according to the news outlet, and the state’s first dispensaries opened in 2019.

Landry’s proposal initially stalled in committee last month after some lawmakers deemed it unnecessary since employers can make changes to their policies regarding medical cannabis without a change in state law.

Landry then voluntarily deferred the legislation and worked with committee members to revise the bill.

At Thursday’s hearing on H.B. 988, Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, also voiced concerns about the Legislature taking responsibility for workplace protections, suggesting that state agencies should tackle the issue, the Louisiana Illuminator reported.

Louisiana Department of Administration Communications Director Jacques Berry then said that his department has policies in place to protect its workers from discrimination based on medical cannabis use, and that H.B. 988 would create a uniform policy for all state agencies, according to the news outlet.

Other lawmakers praised the legislation as the first step in reforming Louisiana’s laws to accommodate medical cannabis.

“We’re going to have to change how we deal with medical marijuana,” Rep. Ed Larvadain, D-Alexandria, said, according to the Louisiana Illuminator. “But this is a first step.”

Larvadain also said during Thursday’s hearing that he would like Landry to work with him on a plan to protect law enforcement officers and firefighters who use medical cannabis, as well, the news outlet reported.