BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Researchers at GB Sciences and the LSU AgCenter finished harvesting the state’s first medical marijuana crop Tuesday, but procedural issues could again prevent Louisiana patients from getting access to the medicine in a timely fashion.
“Some of these people only have a few weeks or months to live,” Baton Rouge medical marijuana physician, Dr. Victor Chou, said. “They want to live it as pain free as possible. Every little delay, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month, impacts those people.”
GB Sciences planted the state’s first marijuana crop in August in a temporary pod, which was constructed so the state could get some product on the shelves by early November. But on Wednesday, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said he does not expect the state to meet that goal.
Even though the crop has been harvested, an independent lab must test the product for unwanted chemicals or infections. Strain says LDAF could not find a single lab in Louisiana that could carry out all of the tests required to approve the product. “You might find a lab that can do several tests, but we’ve found no lab, or even a combination of labs, that can do all the tests,” Strain said. “They don’t regularly test marijuana concentrate.”
There is currently a request for proposal that would allow another lab to test the marijuana. Research companies have until October 25 to bid for that contract. But Strain says LDAF will conduct its own tests on the marijuana concentrate as long as it’s “economically feasible.” The department purchased $800,000 in testing and research equipment to use in an existing facility.
“We’ve been working on an in-house testing facility since late last year,” Strain said.
Strain says LDAF is ready to begin testing the marijuana concentrate as soon as GB Sciences finishes drying and curing the harvested crop. Strain says they are requiring the growers to submit 5 g of marijuana concentrate from each batch of product, including each strain of plant.
“We’re doing everything that we can so that we can expedite the process and do it in a manner that has a minimal cost,” Strain said. “We want a safe, effective, and affordable product.”
Strain says LDAF would be “delighted if we could find someone to do all these tests in a timely and cost-effective manner,” but he indicated LDAF would split the load with the other lab, or keep one lab as a backup option.
“It’s not good to have all your eggs in one basket,” Strain said. “If we find one, we’ll be glad to work with them, but we also need redundancy, either from a private lab or one of our labs.”
GB Sciences Executive Vice President John Davis says he will meet with Strain on October 22 to try to work out any kinks in the process. “We’re the first to do this in Louisiana,” Davis said. “With that comes learning curves and we understand that. We just want to cooperate and share information and streamline it to get it done.”
Chou says Capitol Wellness Solutions, the capital area’s only licensed dispensary, will delay its grand opening in anticipation of the delay in product.
“This is like running a marathon,” Chou said. “You can’t get to mile 24 until you’ve hit mile 10. In the whole scheme of things, every step forward is a step in the right direction."