A war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder ushered in a brave new era in Louisiana this week when he finally gained access to medical marijuana.
Patients rejoiced when the state legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2015, but they had to endure a painful four-year wait for sales to begin. A series of regulatory disputes eventually came to an end this year, various hurdles were overcome and Louisiana’s nine licensed pharmacies began offering legal cannabis products this week.
Former Marine Gary Hess was the first veteran to secure an approved dose of cannabis when he visited the Capitol Wellness Solutions pharmacy in Baton Rouge this week. He uses marijuana to treat depression, anxiety, and insomnia that have resulted from PTSD.
The pharmacy’s owner, Randy Mire, held a ribbon cutting ceremony at his offices in Baton Rouge this week. He has a long waiting list of patients that need access to cannabis, and he said this week’s news was a big relief.
Pharmacies in Louisiana can only dispense cannabis products grown and processed within the state. It only permits cultivation at two sites: Louisiana State University and Southern University. Both universities had to team up with a commercial producer in order to commence the production process.
Southern chose Advanced Biomedics LLC, but it broke ties with the form after it was embroiled in a dispute over company owners. That has delayed its cultivation scheme. It has since taken on a new partner, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, but it only planted its first crop two weeks ago and it will not have products ready for a while.
LSU chose to team up with GB Sciences, which found itself mired in a petty dispute with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Its commissioner, Mike Strain, claimed GB Sciences and LSU began moving cannabis plants into the facility on March 1, before being awarded proper clearance, and the legal fallout sparked huge delays.
Even Gov. John Bel Edwards waded in, urging both parties to put aside their differences and ramp up production as quickly as possible. The agriculture department eventually relented, and GB Sciences has finally begun shipping cannabis products to the pharmacies this week.
The first products to hit shelves are tinctures, priced at around $90 for a CBD rich solution up to $200 for a THC-rich solution. GB Sciences said it will begin to release more products in future.
“This is a watershed moment for our company and the state of Louisiana, reflecting many years of research and development by GB Sciences into the cannabis plant’s biopharmaceutical applications,” said president John Davis.
Qualifying conditions include multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, HIV, AIDS, cancer, Crohn’s and autism. Only 88 doctors are currently active in prescribing medical marijuana.
This week’s news is a step in the right direction for marijuana advocates in Louisiana, but initially supply will be low, prices are expensive and it will take some time for this industry to really take off. Smokable flower and vaporizers are also banned, so the black market is also likely to continue thriving until the laws are relaxed further.