Louisiana’s Medical Marijuana Program Expands

For the first time, you can now get smokable marijuana flower in the Bayou

Source: @TASLafayette

The New Year means smokable medical marijuana is finally accessible in the state of Louisiana. Before January 1st, the Pelican State only had two legal growers: the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University. Both are in Baton Rouge, about 40 minutes outside of New Orleans. Those centers and their partners were permitted to cultivate and produce marijuana in the form of tinctures or edibles, but could not dispense marijuana flower to smoke. That’s been the law since 2019, and lawmakers have been criticized for how slowly they moved to expand the legislation. 

Now that the calendar has turned to read 2022, Louisiana now has nine cannabis pharmacies that are finally permitted to include the option of smokable pot for sale. That’s thanks to a law signed back in June that’s expected to double projected sales of medical cannabis in Louisiana to about $100 million next year. By 2025, the state expects to see sales numbers closer to $400 million.  Patients can now purchase up to 2.5 ounces of raw cannabis flower every 14 days. 

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New Regulations

The issue with the slow rollout of the new law was with product testing, as well as with the slow pace in the creation of new rules to regulate the medical marijuana market. The legislature under Governor John Bel Edwards did expand the law so that doctors can now recommend marijuana for any illness at their own discretion, rather than being limited to an approved list of specific ailments. 

Plus, you don’t need a medical marijuana card in Louisiana; you’d have a recommendation from a doctor, just like any other prescription, and can pick the product up from any of the nine medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. The Chairman of the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission explained the product can’t be sold at a normal pharmacy because it’s still a Schedule I drug under the federal government’s eyes, and therefore must be sold at specific state-approved dispensaries.

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Dried cannabis flower in jars ready for consumption

Source: Shutterstock

That’s good news for medical marijuana patients in the state, the count of which has septupled in just the past two years from over 2,000 to over 14,000. 

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There are other changes in the law, too. In the past, if you were stopped and an officer found marijuana in your car, you’d be criminally charged. Now, police departments have to make some leeway for medical marijuana patients. The new procedure says that if a law enforcement officer finds medical marijuana in its pharmaceutical vial and the person the officer is questioning can provide the license or identification that corresponds with the name on the vile, then no cannabis-related charges will come from the interaction. 

Hefty Price Tags

The problem with having only two cannabis cultivators responsible for producing enough cannabis to provide for the entire state is that as the market expands, there’s little room for those two Ag Centers to keep up. Bottlenecks in the supply chain have arisen recently as a result, driving up prices to levels industry experts deem unacceptable. Some patients have been recorded as saying their cannabis bill totals at $500-$1,500 every single month – nearly double what they would pay in other states.

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 At a recent Medical Marijuana Commission meeting, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry was met with utter vitriol from business owners, constituents, and others with a stake in the business. Some Louisiana lawmakers are demanding the state expand the number of cultivator licenses, as well as the number of testing sites.

Some have said that constantly shifting regulations, changes in minute details, slow testing and approval by the Department of Agriculture, and special certification laws also hinder the supply chain. The wording for the certification has now changed, so that any physician “in good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners” can recommend medical marijuana, rather than just those approved by a specific certification. 

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Marijuana flower should help ease some of the burden on patients’ pocketbooks, since it doesn’t have to be processed into tinctures, oils, and food items as was mandated in the past. 

Recreational Cannabis

Cannabis for recreational adult-use is still against the law in Louisiana, and so far, that doesn’t seem likely to change imminently – at least not based on the State government’s tone. The Governor has said that he does believe that will happen at some point, but does not believe that will happen while he’s in office. An effort to pass adult-use cannabis laws stalled in the House in Louisiana this past legislative session.  

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When Governor Edwards signed the new medical marijuana law in June, he also reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana; however, he made clear that he was not decriminalizing possession or use.

Official portarait of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards

Source: Richard David Ramsey

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“Instead, anyone convicted of this crime will now be subject to a maximum penalty of $100 instead of being exposed to parish prison time,” said Governor Edwards. “This is not a decision I took lightly. In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly. This measure passed Louisiana’s Legislature with bipartisan support following a robust discussion of the toll of over-incarceration on our people and our state. Taking this action is another step forward for Louisiana’s criminal justice reform efforts.”

Where to Shop

Smokable marijuana, as well as the tinctures and edibles the state already allowed, can be found at the following dispensaries:

  • Region 1: Metropolitan 
    • H & W Drug Store: 1667 Tchoupitoulas Street, Suite B in New Orleans, La. 70130-1852.
      • Telephone: (504) 301-2363.
  • Region 2: Capitol 
    • Capitol Wellness Solutions: 7491 Picardy Avenue in Baton Rouge, La. 70809-3536.
      • Telephone: (225) 800-9420.
  • Region 3: Teche
    • Green Leaf Dispensary: 6048 W. Park Avenue in Houma, La. 70364-1808.
      • Telephone: (985) 360-3372.
  • Region 4: Acadian
    • The Apothecary Shoppe: 620 Guilbeau Road, Suite A in Lafayette, La. 70506-8709.
      • Telephone: (337) 345-4500.
  • Region 5: Southwest 
    • Medicis: 1727 Imperial Blvd., Building 4 in Lake Charles, La. 70605-5362. 
      • Telephone: (337) 420-8420.
  • Region 6: Central
    • The Medicine Cabinet Pharmacy: 403 Bolton Avenue in Alexandria, La. 71301-7026.
      • Telephone: (318) 545-4460.
  • Region 7: Northwest
    • Hope Pharmacy: 1410 Kings Highway, Suite A in Shreveport, La. 71103-4227. 
      • Telephone: (318) 585-0420.
  • Region 8: Northeast
    • Delta Medmar: 111 McMillan Road in West Monroe, La. 71291-5319.  
      • Telephone: (318) 855-3373.
  • Region 9: Southeast
    • Willow Pharmacy: 1519 Highway 22 West, Suite 5 in Madisonville, La. 70447-9489.
      • Telephone: (985) 792-2391.
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