Strain: Medical marijuana will take time to hit Louisiana market

    Marijuana supporters won a small victory in Louisiana in the recently ended legislative session, when lawmakers approved a framework for the production and distribution of medicinal marijuana in the state. But logistical issues will force a lengthy delay before the product hits the market, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said Monday.

    “On the Senate floor, the testimony was at least two years. People are saying that’s insufficient,” said Strain in a speech to the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “The law didn’t say you can grow this product. It said that we shall develop the rules for the production of a pharmaceutical grade compound from this product.”

    The law, Senate Bill 143, tasks the state Department of Agriculture with drafting the rules and regulations for growing medical marijuana, all the way from how seeds must be maintained to where and how the product is dispensed. The law does not mention recreational marijuana, which is still illegal to possess at the federal and state level.

    Strain says he has formed a committee to study other state’s best practices for medicinal marijuana regulation. The state also has been in touch with the LSU AgCenter and the Southern University AgCenter about how to grow the plant.

    This has never been done in Louisiana before, so it’ll be a while before officials determine the right methods for the state, Strain said.

    For example, the law prohibits medical marijuana to be produced in an inhaled or raw form, instead declaring it must be distilled into a liquid or oil used solely as a pharmaceutical. So officials have to find out how to extract the plant’s useful chemicals.

    “Does anybody know what the volume is going to be, how much we’re going to need to do? How many square feet the building is going to be? What’s the tiered layer of security? What’s the security protocols? How do we test the seed when it comes in?” Strain said. “We are charged with this and charged with doing it right. We’re going to move in a very, very positive direction. And I can tell you that we intend to be very open about the process, and we are going to cross every T and double dot every I.”

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