pcloudy.png
Tuesday October 22nd, 2019 12:20PM

Louisiana launching medical marijuana after years of waiting

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Marine veteran struggling with PTSD and a woman fighting cancer became some of the first people to purchase medical marijuana in Louisiana on Tuesday, as the state became the first in the Deep South to dispense therapeutic cannabis, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access to it.

Nine pharmacies are licensed to dispense medical marijuana across Louisiana and most are expected to open this week. Louisiana joins more than 30 other states that allow medical marijuana in some form. And though marijuana is banned at the federal level, a congressional amendment blocks the Justice Department from interfering with states' medical marijuana programs.

A 41-year-old combat veteran from Belle Chasse, Louisiana, made his purchase at Capitol Wellness Solutions on Tuesday. He said he'd tried medical marijuana in California and it changed his life but he was happy to be able to purchase it in his home state.

"It has become a reality to my family this morning, waking up and knowing that I would be able to go home and for the first time in my long struggle, I'll be able to do this legally in front of my family," Gary Hess told reporters before making his purchase. "That's incredible."

GB Sciences, one of two state-sanctioned growers, began shipping medical marijuana to Louisiana's registered dispensaries Tuesday morning, after state regulators recently completed final tests and cleared it for release. Hundreds of patients in Louisiana have been awaiting the start of the program after years of work by lawmakers, who created the regulatory framework in 2015 for dispensing the cannabis. There also have been regulatory disputes and other hurdles.

State Sen. Fred Mills, a pharmacist in St. Martin Parish who sponsored the medical marijuana law, never thought it would take years for patients to gain access. He said he has repeatedly received "difficult calls" from people with cancer, seizures and other debilitating conditions and their family members asking when cannabis will reach pharmacy shelves.

"The toughest thing has been not being able to give people a definitive timeline that they could make plans for," Mills said.

Randy Mire, owner of Capitol Wellness Solutions in Baton Rouge, saw three patients Tuesday and hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his spa-like offices in the state's capitol. He has hundreds more patients waiting. He said he specifically wanted to create a welcoming office space so patients could feel safe and that they were in a place where they wouldn't be judged.

For many of the patients, Tuesday was a big relief, he said.

"Maybe they've had to use medical marijuana not legally in the past and now they're able to actually have a legal recommendation for this," he said.

Only the Louisiana State University and Southern University agricultural centers are authorized to grow medicinal-grade pot.

Regulatory disagreements between GB Sciences, LSU's grower, and state regulators in Louisiana's agriculture department slowed getting the product to shelves, with medical marijuana advocates claiming the agency created unnecessary regulatory hurdles.

Meanwhile, Southern broke ties with the first company it chose to grow marijuana, delaying its efforts. Southern's new grower Ilera Holistic Healthcare planted its first crop two weeks ago and estimates its first product could be available by fall at the earliest.

Under the 2015 law and additional changes passed since then, Louisiana is allowing medical marijuana to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson's disease.

Albert Anthony was at Capitol Wellness Solutions with his wife Jeanette, who suffers from a rare type of brain cancer. He said she hadn't tried medical marijuana before but he had and hoped it would have some benefits for her such as increasing her appetite.

"That's a great feeling, you know, that you can get a product that's legal now and we're just glad to see it come to pass," he said.

Doctors don't issue a prescription but a "physician recommendation form," a legal nuance aimed at keeping doctors from jeopardizing their medical licenses because federal law prohibits prescribing marijuana. Eighty-eight doctors around the state have been approved for the Louisiana permit required to offer medical-grade pot to patients.

Marijuana can be available in oils, pills, liquids, topical applications and an inhaler, such as that used by asthma patients — but not in a smokeable form.

GB Sciences' first product will be liquid tinctures, in three different concentrations. John Davis, GB Sciences Louisiana president, said he expects to have dissolving strips taken by mouth available in a month, followed by topical creams.

Pharmacies set their own price for the products, and insurance won't be covering the cost, so patients will have to pay out of pocket. Mire said the cost at his pharmacy will range from $99 to $200 per product.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Authorities scour leads in mass shootings that left 31 dead
Authorities in two U.S. cities scoured leads in a pair of weekend mass shootings that killed 31, trying to piece together the motives that led two young men to unleash violence on innocent people in crowded public places
1:51AM ( 19 minutes ago )
China vows to counter US deployment of midrange arms in Asia
China says it "will not stand idly by" and will take countermeasures if U.S. deploys intermediate-range missiles in the Indo-Pacific region, which it plans to do within months
1:50AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Ohio governor set to talk policy in wake of mass shootings
Ohio's Republican governor plans to outline proposals designed to deal with gun violence and mental health just days a gunman killed nine people in the latest
1:45AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
In slap at Maduro, US freezes Venezuela's government assets
Trump administration steps up its tensions with Venezuela's socialist leader, freezing all his government's assets
1:07AM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump freezes Venezuela gov't assets in escalation
Trump signs executive order freezing Venezuela gov't assets in significant escalation of tensions with Maduro
12:23AM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump vows urgent action after shootings, offers few details
President Donald Trump is calling for bipartisan solutions to mass shootings but offering few details
12:12AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Journalist's death helps to reshape US handling of hostages
After journalist James Foley was beheaded by Islamic State militants 5 years ago, his mother committed herself to making sure that other hostage families had a better, more productive relationship with the US government than she did
7:11PM ( 6 hours ago )
Puerto Ricans await court decision on potential new governor
Puerto Rico's Supreme Court agrees to rule on a lawsuit that the island's Senate filed in a bid to oust a veteran politician recently sworn in as the island's governor
6:01PM ( 8 hours ago )
After shootings, Congress again weighs gun violence response
After mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Congress again is confronted with the question of what, if anything, lawmakers should do to combat the scourge of gun violence afflicting the country
5:57PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Experts: Mental illness not main driver of mass shootings
President Trump's focus on "mentally ill monsters" oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the part of easy access to firearms, experts said Monday
5:07PM ( 9 hours ago )
France: Groups want Notre Dame enclosed during lead cleanup
Environmental groups and one of France's largest labor unions called Monday for a containment shield and other safety measures to ensure decontamination work at Notre Dame Cathedral does not expose workers and residents to unsafe levels of lead
11:49AM ( 14 hours ago )
Notre Dame: Environmental groups warn against lead pollution
A group of environmental associations and workers' unions call for the full confinement of the cleanup work at Notre Dame cathedral to better protect workers and neighboring residents from toxic pollution
9:48AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Health
Protesters in Hong Kong decry government's 'empty rhetoric'
Hong Kong protesters have condemned the government's "empty rhetoric" and instances of alleged police abuse in an inaugural "People's Press Conference."
1:05AM ( 1 hour ago )
Asian stocks follow Wall Street lower as trade war worsens
Asian stocks follow Wall Street lower on fears escalating US-China trade war will hurt global economy
11:49PM ( 2 hours ago )
S&P 500 plunges in worst loss of year as trade war escalates
U.S. stocks nosedived as China's currency fell sharply and stoked fears that the trade war between the U.S. and China will escalate further, causing more damage to the global economy.
9:58PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
Protesters in Hong Kong decry government's 'empty rhetoric'
Hong Kong protesters have condemned the government's "empty rhetoric" and instances of alleged police abuse in an inaugural "People's Press Conference."
1:54AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Authorities scour leads in mass shootings that left 31 dead
Authorities in two U.S. cities scoured leads in a pair of weekend mass shootings that killed 31, trying to piece together the motives that led two young men to unleash violence on innocent people in crowded public places
1:51AM ( 19 minutes ago )
China vows to counter US deployment of midrange arms in Asia
China says it "will not stand idly by" and will take countermeasures if U.S. deploys intermediate-range missiles in the Indo-Pacific region, which it plans to do within months
1:50AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Ohio governor set to talk policy in wake of mass shootings
Ohio's Republican governor plans to outline proposals designed to deal with gun violence and mental health just days a gunman killed nine people in the latest
1:45AM ( 25 minutes ago )
North Korea fires more weapons, denounces US military drills
North Korea fired presumed short-range ballistic missiles in its latest weapons demonstration and said it is compelled to maintain its defenses because of "hostile military moves" from its partner in nuclear talks
1:31AM ( 39 minutes ago )