BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - GB Sciences and the LSU AgCenter began growing medical marijuana inside their southern Baton Rouge facility this week, meaning patients could have access to the finished product by November.
The process was delayed, but the Department of Agriculture and Forestry approved the use of a temporary grow facility, called a pod, that will help keep the production on schedule.
"Giving people who are suffering from critical medical conditions, that's what drives me," said GB Sciences Executive Vice President John Davis.
Davis says the permanent facility should open in October. The building is divided into several different pods, each containing plants at different stages of development. To keep the plants genetically identical, the facility is equipped with special green lights and expensive irrigation and temperature control systems. If the plants' genes vary, the resulting medicine could produce unexpected results.
After extraction, the plants' medicinal compounds will be used to create lozenges and droppers that can ease a number of illness' symptoms. Unlike other states, GB Sciences and the LSU AgCenter are producing the finished product, which allows for better regulation and safer distribution. The AgCenter has its own dedicated space in the facility, and Davis says their research could lead to pleasant surprises because marijuana studies are just beginning.
"The AgCenter is helping us unlock the mystery in this facility," he said. "This has been off limits since Nixon decided he was going to wage a war on drugs."
Victor Chou says he thinks he's the only doctor in the capital area that offers general consultations for medical marijuana. He opened his practice in March, and says he's already had 700 different potential patients come calling.
"I had one guy the other day that almost cried," Chou said. "He told me this was the first time that he felt that a doctor had actually listened to him and was listening to what he wanted out of his treatment."
Chou says he wants people to understand the process is heavily regulated and watched by medical professionals. He says the process for acquiring the marijuana will be almost identical to the acquisition of any other prescription. "The human body has a number of receptors that respond to different types of medicine," Chou said. "Marijuana can work for patients when nothing else would."
Davis and Chou each say they're working to change public perception about medical marijuana, adding the state desperately needs more doctors to get the license that allows them to prescribe the treatment.