Prescription marijuana on Louisiana shelves this year? Medical advocates make demand amid delay

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BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana’s medical cannabis specialists and dispensary owners are urging to see therapeutic marijuana prescribable by May 15.

The demand comes nearly four years after state lawmakers endorsed prescription-grade marijuana. Pharmacists from the state’s nine certified dispensaries warn that further delays could hurt cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and Parkinson’s patients who have long sought relief.

“Any kind of adverse event — death, suffering, pain — after May 15 is going to be on the people responsible for getting this product out,” Shreveport pharmacist Doug Boudreaux told on Tuesday. “If that date is not met, it’s not on the pharmacies.”

One state-approved grower hopes it can provide a limited supply by mid-May. GB Sciences, which is partnering with LSU AgCenter, cleared a state inspection Friday to move its marijuana crops to a larger warehouse. The company’s vice president claims the new facility will increase production four-fold.

But state agriculture officials must still test the products for potency, pesticides and contaminants. Packages and labels also require inspection. Advocates claim Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain’s lab has not tested products quickly enough. They also blame the delay on procedural disagreements between GB Sciences and state regulators.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said he hopes to match the May 15 ultimatum, though he has made no commitments, calling product safety his first priority.

The state’s first legal batch of medical marijuana will include three varieties. One will include higher amounts of CBD, the ingredient in cannabis that eases pain; another will feature more THC, which features psychoactive effects; the third will be a more even mixture.

It’s unknown how large the first batch will be and who will qualify for access. State pharmacy and medical boards will choose which cases warrant the greatest need for prescription-grade marijuana.

“Many of them have exhausted everything that we could offer them in terms of conventional medical therapy,” said Dr. Victor Chou, who runs the Medical Marijuana Clinic of Louisiana.

Chou opened his practice a few years ago, focusing solely on prescription cannabis. But with no marijuana to prescribe yet, his work has mostly involved patient consultations. He has hundreds of patient files stored, so he will know just what to prescribe when the medication is finally available.

“It is extremely frustrating that we just have one final step to take, but it’s the one step that I have no control over,” he said.

Louisiana plans to roll out its full medical marijuana program by August. That release will include more varied proportions of CBD and THC.

Only the LSU and Southern University agricultural centers have legal permission to grow marijuana in the state. Disputes with a prior vendor have given Southern’s program its own share of delays, though the school hopes to introduce a batch sometime this fall.

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