Louisiana legislators have passed a new bill intended to close the gaps on a medical marijuana law passed nearly 25 years ago. No patient has ever benefited from the 1991 law, because it failed to provide any structure for how to regulate the cultivation and prescription of cannabis.
Gov. Bobby Jindal already singed the bill into law. While, this is good news for people who have been waiting to incorporate cannabis in their treatment plans, officials expect the plan to take a minimum of two years to implement.
Mike Strain, Louisiana Agricultural Commissioner, said his office would begin immediately on the complex process of constructing regulations for cultivating and dispensing marijuana. Part of the challenge will be to adhere to strict guidelines imposed by state law enforcement associations. Strain said,
“This is all new ground. We’re going to follow every rule, every regulation with a great care.”
With the bill, Louisiana joins nearly half of the United States in legalizing access to medical marijuana. Currently, proposed prescriptions would be available only to sufferers of glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and cancer patients in chemotherapy. The proposal requests, however, that other conditions be considered for treatment.
The executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, Malcolm Broussard, is ready to begin structuring licensing for medical pharmacies. The law allows for a total of 10 medical marijuana pharmacies for the entire state, which has a population of over 4,500,000 people.
The question of who will grow the plants remains unanswered at this time. Under the bill, only one grower in the state may be licensed to cultivate cannabis for medical distribution. Under the law, only consumable cannabis will be permitted. Smoking the plant is not included in this legislation.
First right of refusal goes to Louisiana State University and Southern University. If they decline, the process may go to bid in the private sector.
Strain noted that the process of issuing contracts and licensing is likely to come under intense public scrutiny. He said that he and other officials intend to operate with caution and transparency.
The deadline for submitting all proposals is January of next year. If lawmakers reject the new rules, administrative officials will have to start over.