Louisiana’s medical marijuana program may still be budding, but it has made significant progress with patients now having legal access to smokable cannabis.
On January 1, 2022, raw cannabis flowers became available for Louisiana’s over 10,000 registered medical marijuana patients.
Consumers and stakeholders were thrilled with the news and are now hoping for lower prices as suppliers work to satisfy the ever-growing medical cannabis market.
Louisiana is one of the pioneering states in the Deep South that legalized medical marijuana in limited forms back in 2016. Cannabis could only be available to patients in a few ways, and raw smokable flowers were not among them.
However, Governor John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 391 into law last summer, which allowed the distribution, purchasing, and consumption of smokable weed.
This is a significant step for the cannabis industry since raw smokable marijuana represents almost half of all products sales in states that have legalized the drug.
Texas could be going in the same direction after the state’s Supreme Court agreed to review a case challenging the ban on smokable hemp.
Late last year, The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) filed a statement of jurisdiction with the Supreme Court and scheduled oral arguments for March this year.
If successful, the court will overturn a 2019 ruling that banned the manufacture, processing, distribution, and retail sale of consumable hemp products for smoking.
Still, getting a Louisiana medical marijuana card will not be as straightforward as some patients desire.
First, patients have to send their medical records to a licensed Medical Cannabis Physician who will assess their condition. After that, they must schedule a consultation appointment and receive a medical recommendation from their physician.
Seeing how cannabis is not federally legal, patients are likely to pay for these sessions out of their pockets.
Despite having a lengthy process, getting a Louisiana medical marijuana card is worth it for patients in the state.
Doctor Victor Chao, founder of the Medical Marijuana Clinic in Baton Rouge, expressed that the availability of smokable cannabis has been beneficial to his patients.
He shared that those unable to access other forms of cannabis therapies, which are relatively more expensive than flowers, now have a feasible alternative. Patients with multiple diagnoses can now utilize cannabis in various forms to speed up recovery.
With the new law comes new policies for law enforcement and stakeholders in the industry.
For instance, since cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug, it can’t go through regular pharmacies. Instead, raw cannabis flowers will only be available to medical marijuana patients at regulated dispensaries.
Police procedures regarding possession and driving under the influence of cannabis are also likely to change.
In order to possess smokable weed in vehicles, individuals must have their formal identification printed on the cannabis packaging. Still, this comes when there is great debate over the effects of smoking cannabis on a person’s ability to drive.
While many people believe that the psychoactive effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can impair judgment during tasks like driving, it is yet to be scientifically proven. Nevertheless, scientists are working on a quick roadside test for THC intoxication.
The enthusiasm for the availability of smokable cannabis options in Louisiana is evident with the spike in the number of patients seeking consultation.
Doctor Penny Sue Walker, the co-founder of Louisiana Medical Marijuana Doctors clinic, shared her experience with the growing number of medical marijuana patients.
She expressed that she only had about two appointments in a day back in 2019, but now the numbers have grown by tenfold.
The diversity of the patients she sees has also changed considerably with age groups ranging from toddlers to seniors in their 90s.
The good news is that Doctor Walker has seen the conditions of many of her patients improve due to medical marijuana.
She confessed that she has witnessed autistic children speak for the first time after medical marijuana therapies. She has also seen cancer patients destined for hospice improve and beat all odds.
Although the availability of smokable cannabis for Louisiana patients marks a significant milestone for the state’s market, there’s still plenty of work ahead for stakeholders.
In these early days of legal smokable weed, patients may expect shortages due to the limited number of growers in the state.
Louisiana has two agricultural centers authorized to cultivate marijuana, Louisiana State University-GB Sciences of Louisiana and Southern University-Advanced Biomedical.
For these two centers to comfortably supply all the medical cannabis patients’ needs consistently, they need to catch up with demands by acquiring ample dispensary supplies.
Furthermore, there were only nine marijuana pharmacies in Louisiana in early 2022. This number is way too low to satisfy the over 10,000 patients in the state. However, as more agricultural centers acquire permits to grow cannabis, these prices will likely reduce over time.