Following numerous regulatory delays, Louisiana is expecting to plant the state’s first medical marijuana crop tomorrow, Aug. 17.
The Las Vegas-based cultivation company GB Sciences is partnering with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center to produce the crop. The Monroe News-Star reported that GB Sciences’ original intentions were to have medical marijuana available for the state’s nine licensed dispensaries by September, but the hurdles they’ve had to jump before they could even get the crop in the ground look to have pushed things back to at least November. And even if GB Sciences is able to produce a crop so quickly, it’s going to be a fraction of what the company will be able to provide patients when they get to full operational capacity.
Former Governor Bobby Jindal signed medical marijuana into the Louisiana lawbooks three years ago, upon signing HB 149 in June 2015. At the time, many officials expected patients to get access to medical cannabis in 2017.
The state’s Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain — yes, “Strain” is his last name — told the Monroe News-Star earlier this week his team had no intentions of bogging down the process.
“I’m expecting to give them a temporary go-ahead to begin after our team does a preset final inspection (Thursday),” Strain said.
“Everyone is working hard together to move forward,” he said.
The approval is for a temporary turn-key facility that GB Sciences built to expedite things. They are still waiting for approval from Strain for their larger Baton Rouge facility, which sits only a few hundred miles down Interstate 55 from the country’s oldest legal grow site at the University of Mississippi.
Dispensary owners in Louisiana are biting their nails, hoping the state can approve the grow as soon as possible.
“It’s become pretty frustrating and illustrates the pace of government and the pace of business operate at two separate speeds,” said Greg Morrison, owner of the Delta Medmar dispensary, which will be located in West Monroe, in comments to the Associated Press. “We really need to get moving.”
But Commissioner Strain is more than happy to take his time for the sake of doing this right.
“This is the most scrutinized project since riverboat gambling,” Strain said. “We’re going to do exactly what is right, period.” He also noted has to be done by the book, and they have to write the book in the process.
According to GB Sciences’ new president John Davis, there isn’t anything left to do on their end besides pick up the call should the state have more questions.
“We’ve submitted everything we’ve been asked and resubmitted everything they’ve asked for, so we’re trying to get down to the bottom line so we can prevent any further delay to the patients, the physicians, and pharmacies,” Davis said. “We continue to be available to sit down with the (Louisiana Department of Agriculture) at a moment’s notice to work through any loose ends because we’re ready to move forward.”
Davis also notes while GB Sciences is investing $10 to $12 million into their facility, the dispensaries he met with last week currently doing buildouts have to continue to pay the bills with no medicine to generate revenue.
In Issue 32 of Cannabis Now Magazine, we covered Louisiana taking the lead in marijuana reform for the Deep South, which has traditionally been one of the hardest places for activists push along the legalization cause. Despite the delays that Louisiana has faced, the Democrats in Baton Rouge have noted in many cases they have not faced stiff competition from across the aisle.
To that effect, earlier this year Governor John Bel Edwards signed HB 579 and HB 627 into law. Those two bills expanded the state medical marijuana program to recognize a variety of new conditions including autism, PTSD and intractable pain. Representative Edward Ted James who authored the medical marijuana expansion bill also attempted to get decriminalization passed this year. Unfortunately, his peers weren’t quite ready for that one and the bill is going to sit in committee.
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