Louisiana's pharmacies are finally going to see medicinal cannabis hit the shelves, four years after passing medical marijuana legislation.
Finally, over four years after setting up the framework for dispensing medicinal marijuana, Louisiana patients will gain access to the plant to help with their ailments.
The Agriculture Commissioner for Louisiana, Mike Strain announced last Thursday that medicinal marijuana would start being stocked in selected dispensaries, after the agriculture department has concluded their tests on the therapeutic cannabis supplied to them.
Luckily, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has already announced the completed anaylsis of a randomly sampled marijuana tincture provided by GB Sciences, paving the way for further products to be given the regulatory green light.
"We are pleased to announce that LSU-GBSL's final medical marijuana product has passed all testing and is cleared for immediate release to the medical marijuana pharmacies," Strain stated, following the study's approval.
The president of GB Sciences in Louisiana, John Davis, has said that the company intends to have their medical marijuana stocked in licensed dispensaries by 6 August.
"I can't tell you how excited we are for patients," Davis stated.
It's been a long time coming for medical marijuana patients, who have waited over four years for Louisiana to finally stock cannabis. In 2015 a Bill was passed by Governor Bobby Jindal, which set up a template for the prescription of therapeutic marijuana, called HB 149.
However, delays and regulatory disagreements have resulted in a 4-year-long stalemate, and very little progress was made until very recently.
The Agriculture Commissioner, Mike Strain, also made a point to show his appreciation for "everyone who has worked tirelessly from inception through production and testing to make this a reality".
"We look forward to continuing our working relationship with LSU-GBSL and SU-ADB/ILERA as we move into the next phase," he said.
And while it's good news that medical marijuana is now stocked in Louisiana, it isn't exactly simple for a physician to prescribe the drug.
To prescribe cannabis for therapeutic use, a physician has to go through the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) by first registering and complying with Louisiana laws and regulations. They'll need a current license to practice medicine, as well as a schedule I authority from the LBP, as cannabis still remains federally illegal. Physicians will then have to complete a practice activity within the state and re-register each year.
Physicians can only prescribe a total of 100 patients with marijuana, and they must alert the LSBME if they fulfill that number. If they want to prescribe cannabis to any more than 100 patients, then they'll have to apply for an exception. Anyone seeking to prescribe cannabis also cannot have any ownership or investment in a medical marijuana pharmacy or producer.
Patients, on the other hand, have to renew their cannabis "recommendations" every 90 days. Due to the federal illegality of the drug, doctors aren't legally allowed to prescribe it.
Though the good news is, physicians can now provide natural relief to individuals suffering from an array of conditions, ranging from cancer to HIV, AIDS, epilepsy, seizures, Crohn's disease, MS, Parkinson's, PTSD and in some casesm even Autism.
More than 120 doctors state-wide have joined the program, one of which is Dr. Chad Domangue of Hammond.
Domangue stated that while marijuana isn't perfect, it's undoubtedly safer than opioids. For this reason, Domangue has begun prescribing cannabis to patients suffering from chronic pain, as studies have shown that they are highly likely to develop an opioid dependency.
"Marijuana won't solve everyone's problems nor will opioids," Domangue said.
"The thing I love about marijuana is the safety profile. It's a clean and organic plant-based product."
Nine pharmacies across the state have already been approved by the pharmacy board and are now awaiting their cannabis products. Currently, only two growers have been licensed, GB Sciences—who are operating under Louisiana State University—and Ilera Holistic Healthcare, who are working under Southern University.
Louisiana's therapeutic cannabis will be solely provided by GB sciences at this stage, as Ilera won't have any product availble until later this year.
Patients will be able to consume their medicinal marijuana in the form of oils, pills, liquids, topicals, and inhalers. To capitalise on this, GB Sciences is already planning on releasing a tincture and dropper—likely due to their ability to effectively dose the medication—as their first product for pharmacies. The tincture will come in three different ranges; a THC dropper, a CBD dropper, and a full-spectrum dropper.
The prices are said to range between USD 130-200, which may seem steep to those accustomed to getting much cheaper medicines. Although prices are typically high with any new program being rolled out, overpricing has long been an issue that plagues the legal marijuana industry.
The first day that medical marijuana became legal in Ohio in 2016, an ounce cost patients $539. This meant that patients would have to spend two to three times the amount of black-market marijuana acquired illegally. Eventually, with the opening of additional dispensaries, the price dropped to $472 per ounce, though this remains far more expensive than street prices.
However, Louisiana's saving grace—and an essential point of distinction for the state—is that it won't be legalizing flower for medicinal use. As a result, the concentrates and extracts that will emerge from Louisiana State and Southern University wil undoubtedly be above street quality, which may ensure a steady flow of cannabis patients.
And for those in the state hoping for recreational cannabis, medical legalization is always good news. As we've mentioned previously, states which legalize medicinal marijuana often go on to legalize the plant for recreational use within the next few years. This means that Louisiana may very well become a green state in the near future, if its medicinal marijuana industry receives positive feedback.
Until then, continue to stay tuned as we enter into Medicinal Marijuana Month here at The Green Fund – where we'll be covering every area of the medicinal cannabis industry.