As of late 2018, nine Louisiana pharmacies are licensed to distribute medical marijuana, but regulatory hurdles are currently limiting access. Hemp-based CBD, on the other hand, offers many of the same potential health benefits, and is completely legal and widely available across the state right now.

Medical marijuana is coming to the pelican state in 2019. Here’s what’s known so far.

Although Louisiana hasn’t legalized recreational marijuana, it passed an act in 2015 allowing physicians to recommend medical marijuana. Since then, the going has been slow, accelerating only this year. There have been both regulatory hurdles and legislative pushes. The program was initially supposed to roll out in September 2018, and the current projected date is May 2019. Here’s what’s happening to date.

What is medical marijuana?

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, the term “medical marijuana” refers to “using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions.” Vaping and inhalation are not listed as acceptable ways to administer medical marijuana, but many other forms are accepted, such as oils, tinctures, sprays, and chewables.

Why is it called a “recommendation”?

Under federal guidelines, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, a controlled substance. As of late 2018, 10 states have legalized it for recreational purposed and 32 for medical, but it’s still considered illegal under federal law. Therefore, even in states where it’s legal, the preferred term is not to “prescribe” but “recommend” medical marijuana. State agencies use both terms interchangeably, and it essentially means the same thing.

Who will be growing medical marijuana?

 The legislature allowed two entities, Louisiana State University and Southern University, to be the only legal growers of marijuana plants, from which medicines will be extracted. LSU contracted GB Sciences for cultivation and production, while Southern University has initially selected Lafayette-based Advanced Biomedics. As of November 2018, however, Pennsylvania-based Ilera Holistic Healthcare is taking over the contract to grow medical marijuana for the Southern University program.

The Delays

In addition to one of the growers changing contractors, the state agriculture department has been having difficulties finding an independent lab to do the state-ordered third-party product testing. LSU’s partner GB Sciences is expected to provide product samples to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry for testing in November 2018.

Two rounds of testing are anticipated. The first one should take four to six weeks, and would test for heavy metals, pesticides, and other contaminants. The second round, to make sure the ingredients match what’s on the label, should be shorter. If there are no takers from the labs to do the testing, the agency can do it itself, but some rules would have to be changed. The search for the lab continues in the meantime.

How many Louisiana doctors can recommend marijuana?

The up-to-date list of licensed physicians who are authorized to recommend medical marijuana within Louisiana can be found through the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiner’s website. The number was under 10 for a while, but more physicians have become interested since September, when state regulators removed a rule that had restricted Louisiana doctors to having no more than 100 medical marijuana patients at a time. At the same time, the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners also agreed to remove a rule that had required patients to renew their order by seeing a doctor every 90 days.

As of December 2018, there are 46 physicians with active licenses throughout Louisiana. You can find a practitioner on the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiner’s website:

Medical Marijuana Doctor in Louisiana

LSBME website practitioner search. Set practitioner type to “Therapeutic Marijuana Registration” and license type to “Active.”

Where can you buy medical marijuana?

The state has authorized 10 permits for medical marijuana distribution. The list of licensed pharmacies to date totals nine, spreading across the state’s nine regions, with the possibility of the 10th pharmacy added in the future based on need.

What are the qualifying medical conditions?

The list of medical conditions that will be eligible for treatment in Louisiana has been expanded twice this year. To date, it includes the following:

  • Cancer
  • Positive status for HIV, AIDS, cachexia, or wasting syndrome
  • Seizure disorders
  • Epilepsy
  • Spasticity
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Severe muscle spasms
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder.

CBD as an Alternative

The future of medical marijuana might include further expansion of eligible medical conditions as lawmakers in Louisiana keep lifting the restrictions on patient access. In the meantime, if you don’t have a qualifiable medical condition or aren’t interested in feeling the psychoactive effects of marijuana, you can get many of the same potential health benefits with hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD is a naturally occurring medical compound that comes from the marijuana plant, or its close relative hemp. Unlike another compound derived from cannabis called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, CBD is not psychoactive and therefore does not have a mind-altering effect on its users. It’s also completely legal and widely available across the state of Louisiana without prescription to everyone over 18 years of age.

CBD offers many of the same research-supported benefits due to its anti-inflammatory properties and its positive effect on the human brain. It’s been proven to relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, help with sleep, and reduce chronic pain — all without proven side effects.

All CBD products sold at Simply CBD are derived from hemp and are independently verified to be 100% free of THC. Contact us or stop by any of our four New Orleans CBD dispensaries to learn more about this amazing compound and to check out our huge selection of hemp-derived CBD products.