Lawmakers voted Wednesday to reject a set of rules developed to regulate the state’s medical marijuana program, setting the stage for yet another act in an ongoing drama that has patients waiting on therapeutic solutions and politicos scrambling to protect their respective turfs.
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain told members of a House committee that his department is wading through unchartered waters and that the emergency rules re-issued in April represented its best avenue for creating a regulatory framework. The oversight hearing was the latest installment in the feud between Strain and LSU, and by association LSU’s grower GB Sciences.
Officials with GB Sciences, lawmakers and others have argued that the department’s emergency rules have been heavy-handed and inappropriately applied to the medical marijuana program. Strain, on the other hand, countered that his department’s aim with the emergency rules fit into the list of acceptable uses prescribed under law.
“This medicine is not FDA approved and the department is responsible for establishing these rules,” Strain said during his testimony before the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development. “We believe that any rule established for the production of medical marijuana is an emergency.”
It was a testy hearing for Strain, with lawmakers peppering him with questions and comments about the ongoing public feud with LSU. “I think if there were some agreements between everyone we wouldn’t question the status of an emergency,” said Rep. Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas.
Rep. Wayne McMahen, R-Minden, added, “It sounds like we have some communication problems that have got to be resolved.”
While the committee’s action means the department will have to start from scratch again for its rule-making, a bill is on the move to strip it of its role in the medical marijuana program. HB 568 by Miller, which is awaiting a hearing on the House floor, would transfer oversight to the state health department.
The LSU and Southern University agriculture centers are permitted by law to grow marijuana. The grower working at Southern is Ilera Holistic Healthcare.
Jeremy Alford will publish Capitol Views each afternoon in Daily Report PM through the end of the legislative session.