Louisiana became the first Deep South state to sell medical marijuana on Tuesday, Aug. 6, after lawmakers agreed to allow patients access to it four years ago.
Hundreds of patients have been waiting for bureaucratic gears to turn since state legislators adopted a medical marijuana bill in 1978 and later developed a framework for distribution in 2015.
The delay since 2015 arose from a conflict regarding growing methods between the state’s agriculture commissioner, Mike Strain, and LSU’s AgCenter, one of Louisiana’s two growing facilities alongside Southern University.
Although the drug is finally being distributed, it does so with incredibly tight restrictions. Only nine pharmacies are licensed to dispense; only two facilities are licensed to grow and around 80 doctors are licensed to “recommend” medical marijuana. Capitol Wellness Solutions, which opened on Tuesday, is located in Baton Rouge and is one of the nine licensed pharmacies.
Patients suffering from seizures, epilepsy, cancer, PTSD, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s, among other diseases and disorders, will qualify to be recommended medical marijuana.
Distribution of medical marijuana comes as a relief to those who feel they’ve been overmedicated. Scott Elston, a Baton Rouge resident who often suffers from seizures, says he feels as though he’s been through far too many medications for only being 24 years old.
“I feel like a natural remedy — that works ten times better than medications such as Lithium or any of the other pills I’ve been prescribed — should be readily available,” Elston says. “The medical industry and our government should start seriously considering the benefits of medical marijuana.”
Elston says he would like to see a larger, expanding medical marijuana program in Baton Rouge in the near future to help others who may need it.
Currently, the medicine is available in oils, liquids, liquids, and topical applicants. Longtime marijuana proponent Rep. Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) propose a bill earlier this year to allow patients to use inhalers, like asthma patients, to consume the medicine; the bill was advanced by a state Senate committee in March. The smokable plant remains illegal in Louisiana.