It seems as though it may finally be time for things to move forward in Louisiana when it comes to medical marijuana. Last year, the state introduced a law that allowed the use of medical marijuana in non-smokable forms such as oils. Unfortunately, the program is much more restrictive than just that, allowing only three conditions (anyone undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, glaucoma patients and anyone with spastic quadriplegia) to qualify a patient for use.
Even though it has been legal since last year for patients to be prescribed medical marijuana, there has yet to be a final vote on regulations around the production and distribution of the plants. However, the House Agriculture Committee just passed a bill that would give the first right to growing medical marijuana in the state to Louisiana State University Agriculture Center and Southern University’s Agriculture Center.
If the bill were to pass, they would be given the first option to be licensed and approved to grow medical marijuana. The bill entails a bunch of fees however, and between that and the cost of building the facilities the schools are interested, but still weighing in on their options if the bill is signed into law as is. Currently, the fees surrounding the schools becoming licensed include a $10,000 application fee, a $100,000 annual licensing fee, a $100 inspection fee and 7% of their overall sales from the plants to pharmacies.
There are definitely plenty of people who are opposed to the fees being so high – but the state argues that they are only trying to cover costs and that they expect to spend $500-700,000 a year on monitoring the production of the plants. They are also estimating that the schools could make around $7-10 million annually – but there is a good argument against this supporting that the additional 7% of sales might be excessive.
“Seven percent is excessive for the industry, which has not even started yet,” Ford said. “We do not know how much it’s going to produce and we do not know the level of sales.”
The schools would be selling the medical marijuana to pharmacies, who would have to open a second location and become licensed specifically by the state to sell the medical marijuana. Licensing for pharmacies would only amount to $5,000 annually. Unfortunately, even once this bill does pass (and it looks like it stands a good chance to do so) it will still be some time before medical marijuana is on shelves for patients. If the schools decline their right to grow the plants then a private institution would be licensed instead, which could take even longer.
However, there is another bill in the works that was also passed by the House Agriculture Committee which might make it that much more enticing for the schools to take this opportunity, even with the high expense of starting up. The second bill they passed would allow the schools to grow industrial hemp, marijuana’s twin from the cannabis family. After all, that’s two uses they could get out of a single facility with what appears to be no additional licensing fees.