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Medical Marijuana

The year 2016 was a big one for proponents of medical marijuana. Since California legalized in 1996, each year for the next 19 years, anywhere from zero to three states followed suit. In 2016, however, six states voted to legalize the plant for medicinal use. Among them was Louisiana. Since then, two more states have legalized, bringing the total to 31 states. ¶ With the first crop expected to arrive in pharmacies in November, Louisiana is on the verge of a new industry and a new — and to some, controversial — option for medical treatment for many Louisianans.

 What types of conditions are eligible for medical marijuana treatment?

People with the following medical conditions: Cancer, HIV/AIDS, wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease, severe autism, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe muscle spasms, Parkinson’s disease and glaucoma. Estimates are that this makes approximately 100,000 Louisianans eligible for medical marijuana.

 What exactly does medical marijuana do?

According to the Mayo Clinic medical marijuana is used “to ease pain, nausea and other side effects of medical treatments, as well as to treat some diseases.”

In what form will medical marijuana be sold?

The drug will be available in medicinal oils, pills, liquids, sprays and topical applications, but cannot be sold in a form to be smoked.

How do patients get medical marijuana?

Since marijuana is still a schedule 1 narcotic, it cannot legally be prescribed by a doctor. It can, however be recommended, but only by licensed medical providers with a therapeutic marijuana license. As of mid-September, 53 physicians have applied for therapeutic marijuana licenses and 33 have been approved. Louisiana will require only this recommendation. There is currently no state registry or medical marijuana card necessary for purchase. In response to anticipated demand, a handful of specialized medical marijuana health clinics are opening across the state.

Where will medical marijuana be sold?

Louisiana has licensed nine dispensaries. A 10th license could be granted based on need, but the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy limits are currently at 10. Each of the following areas will have a dispensary: Alexandria, Madisonville, Shreveport, West Monroe, Lafayette, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houma and Lake Charles.

 Is medical marijuana covered by insurance?

Marijuana is still currently classified as a schedule 1 drug by the federal government (as is heroin, ecstasy and LSD), and therefore cannot be covered by insurance. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency website, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” For context and comparison, morphine, oxycodone, cocaine and methamphetamines are schedule 2 substances, meaning they are seen as having some medicinal use. There are efforts at the federal level to have marijuana reclassified as a schedule 2 drug. This past June, the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first drug derived from a purified extract of the marijuana plant (cannabidiol or CBD). Epidiolex is approved to treat severe pediatric seizure disorders, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. The company won’t be able to market the drug, however, until the DEA reclassifies CBD. All other forms of CBD products are still in violation of federal law. Until the DEA, federal, state, research and medical communities all catch up with one another, this will continue to seem contradictory.  

Has opioid use dropped in states that have legalized medical marijuana?

In states that allow access to medical marijuana, Medicare data showed a 14 percent drop in opioid prescriptions according to a study published in the May issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. Another study in the same publication showed a similar finding with Medicaid populations.

Who’s growing it?

There are only two locations in Louisiana permitted to grow marijuana for medical distribution. The first is LSU Ag Center, which will also study the medicinal properties of the plant. LSU has enlisted the help of Las Vegas-based bio-pharmacy company GB Sciences to help with growth and extraction. The second is Southern AgCenter, which also hired an outside company, Advanced Biomedics. Both locations got the go-ahead to start planting mid-August.

What kind of revenue could Louisiana expect?

Unlike prescription drugs, medical marijuana products will be subject to Louisiana’s 5 percent state sales tax on goods, as well as local sales taxes in most locations. Revenue will depend on whether these numbers are adjusted and how much is sold.



states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana


states have legalized marijuana for recreational use


Was scheduled to be the first industrialized nation in the world to completely legalize the drug for medical and recreational use on Oct.


Mexico approved medical marijuana in June of 2017


Number of legal medical marijuana patients in the U.S. (as of May 17, 2018)


was the first state to pass medical marijuana (1996) followed by Washington, Alaska and Oregon in 1998. Latest – 2018: Oklahoma

Top 3 States

in Estimated State Revenue from Medical Cannabis Sales by 2020– (year legalized)

$2.5 billion — California (1996)

$756 million — Michigan (2008)

$727 million — Florida  (2016)

Source: Statista.com


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