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After two years of waiting, Louisiana’s first legal cannabis plants will finally hit soil today.
Facilitated by the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Louisiana State University, growers at GB Sciences Louisiana plan to bring their 30 by 60 foot self-contained cultivation pod into full operation by the end of the weekend, with plans to bring legally-sanctioned cannabis products to qualified patients by the end of the year.
According to the Monroe News Star, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain (real name) spent the week finishing required paperwork and site inspections to officially kick start the Pelican State’s medical marijuana program. Cultivators at GB Sciences constructed the grow pod to be able to house the entire lifecycle of the plant, from seed germination to packaging, and placed it outside of their main facility to quickly eliminate any potential licensing snafoos.
"Based upon a very productive meeting with Dr. Strain and the thorough attention to detail from his team we believe we can move forward with production on Friday," John Davis, president of GB Sciences, told the News Star.
While New Orleans embraces streetside drinking, and the Mississippi River hosts gambling boats, Louisiana has long struggled to accept cannabis reform. Bayou legislators passed one of the nation’s most restrictive medical marijuana laws in 2016, but have since made patients wait to access the plant while regulators implemented a unique, university-led program. Slowing the process even further, one year after the bill passed, only two doctors had signed up to recommend the medication.
Under Louisiana state law, medical cannabis products will be restricted to oils, tinctures, topicals, and sprays, with a complete ban on smokable bud. In June of this year, state Senator Ted James introduced and passed legislation to pre-emptively expand the program’s qualifying conditions, adding PTSD, glaucoma, intractable pain, and more to a previously restrictive list of only 10 conditions, including cancer, epilepsy, and HIV.
Feeling pressure from patients and ganjapreneurs, Commissioner Strain passed over every potential regulatory snair with a fine-toothed comb, assuring that GB Sciences would be able to get their hands dirty in some soil this weekend.
"We worked page by page; I told them nobody was leaving until we reached a resolution," Strain told the News Star. "This is the most scrutinized project since riverboat gambling," the commissioner said. "Everything has to be done by the book, and we're having to write the book. We're going to do exactly what is right, period."
Teaming up with the LSU Agricultural Center, GB Sciences will now be the first company to bring marijuana products to the legal market, with hopes that their head start will lead to quicker licensing for the company’s larger production facility.
"We are hopeful that going through this detailed process will expedite the approval process for our entire facility because the department will be far more educated about what we are doing," John Davis, the president of GB Sciences Louisiana, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Once pot plants are in the ground, though, Pelican State medical marijuana patients will still need to wait for nature to take its course, with at least three months of cultivation and processing time delaying access to the plant until at least November of this year.
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