Advocates want medical marijuana available in Louisiana by May 15

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Increasingly frustrated with delays in access to medical marijuana, patient advocates and dispensary owners pressed state regulators to have product available in Louisiana by May 15.

Doug Boudreaux, the licensed co-owner of Hope Pharmacy, a dispensary serving Northwest Louisiana, said he has 180 hospice patients waiting to be able to buy medical marijuana. His dispensary is located across the street from a cancer center, he said Monday (March 25).

“We are under terrible pressure to help our patients,” Boudreaux said.

Speaking as a representative for the Louisiana Association of Therapeutic Alternatives he addressed a panel comprised of the state’s medical marijuana industry stakeholders on Monday (March 25) in Baton Rouge, raising concerns that any additional delays could harm patients who have been waiting for medical marijuana for close to four years.

“We came here to tell them, that if any medical marijuana patient dies, suffers or has an adverse reaction because product isn’t available by May 15, the blame lies on the people in this room,” he said.

The stakeholder meeting, which drew patients, advocates and dispensary owners, was scheduled three days after regulators announced that GB Sciences Louisiana, one of two companies contracted to grow medical marijuana in Louisiana, had cleared suitability requirements to move plants out of a temporary facility and into their main facility.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry is the regulatory agency for the state’s medical marijuana program. Any medical marijuana product has to go through two rounds of testing, which involves detecting any pesticides or contaminants as well testing for potency. GBSL and its growing partner LSU AgCenter said in January it took 72 days for the first round of testing to be complete.

A second round of testing of the final product, as well as review of the product packaging and labelling, could begin within two weeks now that the company has access to its main facility, GBSL president John Davis said during the meeting.

LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain did not specify how long the second round of testing could take. He said that the agency’s lab has already started running initial tests based on what it think the final products are going to look like and added they are “going to do everything in our power to get it to patients.”

Louisiana’s second grower, Southern University AgCenter, is further behind in the process, after its growing partner changed ownership last November to Ilera Holistic Healthcare. The company has started its suitability investigation, which involves background, financial and criminal checks, and finalized a location for its facility. Ilera Healthcare CEO Greg Rochlin, said the company is working towards having product available by this fall.

Meanwhile, GBSL will have to undergo an inspection of its manufacturing facility on March 27 as it continues to move toward having products available.

During the meeting, Boudreaux pushed state regulators to agree to a May deadline to have product availability after months of delays.

“They told us October. Then it was January and we have to go back to our patients and tell them we have nothing to offer them. We are sick of it,” he said.

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