The Long and Winding Road of Medical Marijuana in Louisiana

TIMELINE UPDATE

UPDATE! As of August 1, 2019, the first round of medical marijuana was CLEARED FOR RELEASE. “We are very excited to announce today that LSU-GBSL’s final medical marijuana product has passed all testing for immediate release to the medical marijuana pharmacies. We wish to thank all persons involved who have 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,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M.


Cannabis has been legal for use in the state of Louisiana since 1978 when it was legalized for use by patients undergoing chemotherapy. But it was only in 2015 that we began to see decriminalization and distributors of medical marijuana protected.

On June 30, 2015, Governor Bobby Jindal signed HB 149, which sets up a framework for dispensing marijuana for medical purposes. Lawmakers stated they expected it to take at least until 2017 until the structures were in place to dispense medical cannabis to any patients. Today, patients are still waiting to have medical marijuana available from designated dispensaries.

Louisiana State University Ag Center (LSU-Ag) and Southern University Ag Center (SU-Ag) were granted licenses by the Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner to produce therapeutic cannabis and to conduct research. LSU-Ag selected GB Sciences (GBS) in June 2017 as their partner to cultivate and produce therapeutic cannabis. The first crop was harvested in October 2018, just a month ahead of the projected distribution date, but the crop failed initial testing and a proposal was sent out asking for testing laboratory bids in Louisiana by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) with a deadline of October 25th. Unable to find a suitable lab, the Ag Commission set up their own.

And patients waited.

Finally, in February 2019, LSU AgCenter announced that their latest crop, grown in reduced-sized pods this time, would definitely pass inspection in the Ag Commission lab and would soon be in dispensaries. But this crop failed testing too.

And patients waited.

In March of 2019, the Ag Commissioners Office called out LSU-Ag and GBS when they began moving plants from the small pods to the larger growing facility used initially. Because LSU-Ag didn’t sign the agreement proposed by the agriculture department and moved plants into the facility anyway, the school and GB are “in violation of the law, rules, and regulations,” Tabitha Irvin, director of the agency’s medical marijuana program, wrote in a letter to the LSU-Ag. The agency sent an inspector to the site to verify that LSU-Ag and GB had begun moving the plants.

And patients continued to wait.

On March 22, 2019, GBS is approved by the LDAF to move into the larger facility and begin the third crop of therapeutic cannabis. They project delivery date of May 15th.

And patients waited.

In May 2019, GBS and LSU-Ag announced that they would be able to deliver product to approved pharmacies by May 27th, almost two weeks past the May 15th deadline they promised to stakeholders and patients. Ag Commissioner Mike Strain confirmed that the testing was in the final stages and a firm date would be announced at the upcoming stakeholders meeting. At the stakeholders meeting, an announcement is made that the release will be a limited amount and won't happen until June.

June passes and, on July 19th, the LDAF announces that they are testing the LSU-Ag concentrate and bulk formulations from crop three. Once the tests are passed, the product will be available for labeling and packaging. On July 26th, the LSU AgCenter announces that product should be available for patients by August 1st, 2019.

And patients are still waiting.

On July 29th, 2019, The LDAF is in receipt of medical marijuana final product from Louisiana State University’s (LSU) sub-contractor GBS.

A random sample of the final product was selected by LDAF on July 29th. LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, said, “Once testing is completed and the product passes for homogeneity, potency and is deemed free of contaminants, it will be ready for distribution.” Test results of the final product conducted by LDAF’s laboratory should be completed within seven business days, which will be past August 1st deadline projected on July 26th by the LSU-Ag. If the product fails testing or there are any issues, the date will be extended.

And so, patients continue to wait.

A random sample of the final product was selected by LDAF on July 29th. LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, said, “Once testing is completed and the product passes for homogeneity, potency and is deemed free of contaminants, it will be ready for distribution.” LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain warned, if the product fails testing or there are any issues, the date will be extended.

The first release of medical marijuana to pharmacies by GBS will be a liquid tincture with a dropper for patients to use for dosing. Other approved methods include inhalers, oils, pills, and topical applications.

Ilera Holistic Healthcare, working as the growing partner for Southern University, planted their first seeds in mid-July 2019 and project they will have the first crop in the Fall of 2019 available for testing.

We like to think that they delays reflect a learning curve, necessitated by the new path being blazed by patients, healthcare providers, and Louisiana legislators, and Monday, August 5th will be the day that goes down in history as the day patient recommendations are filled.

If you haven't submitted your paperwork and made an appointment to see one of our physicians, licensed by the State of Louisiana to submit your recommendation to one of the nine pharmacies licensed for medical marijuana, then please call or email The Healing Clinics today.