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Louisiana medical cannabis patients lined up around the block this Monday for a chance to grab the first smokable cannabis flower to be legally sold in the state.

On January 1, a new law expanding the state’s limited medical marijuana program came into effect. The Pelican State’s original medical cannabis law, enacted in 2015, only allowed patients to use edibles, oils, or tinctures. In 2019, the state expanded that program further by legalizing metered-dose medical pot inhalers, and last June, Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed off on a bill that fully legalized smokable flower. 

To prepare for the demand, the state’s nine dispensaries ordered around 150 pounds of flower from the two cultivators that have been licensed to grow legal pot. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry actually approved 193 pounds of flower, which works out to over 20,000 eighth-ounce bags of bud, to be sold starting on January 1. Regulators are now gearing up to authorize additional shipments as soon as current stocks run low.

“It’s an exciting day; it feels like the first day again from August 2019 when the first products became available,” said John Davis of Good Day Farms, one of the state’s two licensed cultivators, to the Daily Advertiser. Davis added that his business has another 300 pounds of flower waiting to be lab-tested and approved for sale, including two new strains that have yet to hit the shelves. Currently, dispensaries are only selling three cultivars, or strains: Mandarin Zkittles, Mandarin Cookies, and Grease Monkey.

When dispensaries opened for business this Monday, patients lined up around the block for a chance to finally get their hands on some legal flower. But when they got inside, many patients experienced some serious sticker shock. Prices at some dispensaries were as high as $480 an ounce, or $60 to $80 for an eighth at stores in larger cities. 

“They said it would be cheaper, but it’s not,” said Corbet King, a patient who drove an hour to buy bud at a dispensary in northern Louisiana, to the Daily Advertiser. “I feel like we were lied to… I’ve been waiting on the flower option, but this [is] more than double the street price [of black market pot].”

State Rep. Tanner Magee (R), who sponsored the bill to legalize smokable flower, said that he was concerned about the initial pricing reports. “It’s the first day, but I’m going to monitor it and see if there needs to be adjustments moving forward,” said Magee, according to the Daily Advertiser. “One of the primary reasons to expand the options in the program was to make the medicine more affordable and accessible.”

Even with the high prices, the new medical marijuana expansion helps cement Louisiana’s reputation as one of the most cannabis-friendly states in the South. Although adult-use weed remains strictly prohibited, Louisiana decriminalized the possession of up to 14 grams of pot this August. And while most states are scrambling to ban delta-8-THC products and other hemp-derived cannabinoids, regulators are working to legalize and regulate the sale of delta-8 and CBD edibles.