While Louisiana has had legislation since the late 1970s regarding medical marijuana, the lack of enabling rules and regulations prevented patient access until the passage of Senate Bill 143 in 2015. Sen. Fred Mills, of Breaux Bridge, authored the legislation, paving the way for the production, recommendation and use of medical marijuana. The act (La R.S. 40:1046) became known as the Alison Neustrom Act, in honor of Dr. Alison Neustrom, of Lafayette, who was an advocate for medical marijuana. At 42, Dr. Neustrom passed away from aggressive pancreatic cancer.
In June 2016, the LSU Board of Supervisors approved a resolution allowing the LSU AgCenter to proceed with obtaining a license from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) for the production of medical marijuana. The AgCenter is currently working to select a supplier to operate in partnership with to produce medical marijuana. This competitive process will allow the AgCenter to select the most qualified partner for the new project. Preliminary estimates show this project will likely cost $10 million to $15 million for the first five years of operation; no state dollars will be used. All costs will be the responsibility of the selected supplier. As the licensee, the AgCenter will receive a percentage of gross sales and an annual allocation for research from the selected supplier.
As outlined in the law, the growth, production and distribution of medical marijuana will be done according to stringent rules established by LDAF, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy (LBOP), and the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME). LDAF will establish rules for the cultivation, extraction and formulation of medical marijuana. LBOP will establish rules for pharmacies to distribute medical marijuana. LSBME will establish rules for the recommendation of medical marijuana by physicians. To ensure product safety and security, the AgCenter is working with both state and local law enforcement agencies.
As currently written, Louisiana law allows for patients with specific disease states to use medical marijuana, including cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. The law does not allow for raw or inhaled (smoked) use and requires refined methods of delivery, including oils, tinctures, sprays, pills, capsules and suppositories.
The law allows the AgCenter, as the licensee, to conduct research on medical marijuana. Research will result in the creation of intellectual property related to the development of plant varieties, extraction methodology, compound identification, and use for treatment of specific disease symptoms. New opportunities through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) will allow for clinical trials and human testing through collaboration with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the LSU Health Science Centers.
For more information, go to Louisiana Therapeutic Marijuana.Hampton Grunewald is the associate vice president for governmental relations.