In 2015, Louisiana lawmakers legalized medical marijuana. It took four years, but sales are finally set to begin this week after the Department of Agriculture cleared the first product for release.
Louisiana’s medical program is limited. Louisiana has licensed only two cultivators—the Louisiana State University and Southern University agricultural centers. The Southern University grower, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, only planted its crop two weeks ago, and thus will not have any product available until the fall. So it is only LSU’s grower, GB Sciences, that is providing product to the nine pharmacies licensed to dispense. Louisiana has also licensed only 88 doctors to prescribe/recommend medical marijuana.
The fact that medical marijuana is available in Louisiana at all shows how far marijuana legalization advocates have come, but the serious restrictions on the program show there is a long way to go. In other states, including Illinois, a robust medical marijuana program both increased public acceptance of marijuana and provided a critical base of infrastructure for the opening of a recreational market. In Louisiana, even if the medical program is successful and support grows for recreational legalization, the infrastructure simply will not be there for a quick transition. In other words, it will likely still be a while before recreational marijuana is added to the offerings up and down Bourbon Street.
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