Medical marijuana lawsuit against LA Pharmacy Board advances to court

Medical marijuana lawsuit against LA Pharmacy Board advances to court

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A judge has ruled that a lawsuit against the Louisiana Pharmacy Board can move forward. The ruling comes after a former candidate for a medical marijuana license said the licenses were awarded based on biased decisions.

When it was announced that medical marijuana was coming to Louisiana, RX Greenhouse filed an 800-page application with the Louisiana Pharmacy Board. After review, the company landed at the top of the recommendation list.

But in April, the board awarded the New Orleans license to the number four choice: H&W Drug.

“It is a new process and it is being built from scratch, but the important way they’re wrong is they don’t get to make a process where their decisions are completely unreviewable,” said RX Greenhouse attorney Alex Onstott.

Onstott filed the lawsuit on behalf of the company weeks after the decision. Now a judge has ruled the lawsuit can move forward, denying the pharmacy board’s motion to dismiss the case.

“This is an incredibly important decision not only in Louisiana, but other states. Other places, other states have boards, departments and decisions dealing with med marijuana, and they’re all trying to decide what’s their authority,” said Onstott.

The Louisiana Pharmacy Board treated the process as an RFP or request for proposal. Before issuing their decision, the owners of each company made their appeals to the board with a speech or presentation.

“Every person that came, every candidate, it was like a job interview,” said Ricky Mannino.

Pharmacy board member Ricky Mannino fears this subjective manner of distributing the licenses opened them up to this lawsuit.

“My opinion is the reason we have this lawsuit is the process was flawed in the beginning. But just because something was flawed doesn’t mean there’s any corruption or collusion or anything like that,” said Mannino.

Onstott said their hope is that the state board or the Legislature will in some way redo or revamp the way companies apply for and are approved for medical marijuana licenses.

“There can’t be an unreviewable process when it comes to this incredible new issue…just on its face it doesn’t look good, and if it doesn’t look good, it probably isn’t good for the health of the people of Louisiana,” said Onstott.

Mannino said whatever the outcome, the board will adhere to the court’s ruling. But he fears this will delay what so many patients are anxiously waiting for.

“It’s just up in the air right now. I wish the court would have resolved this eight months ago, so if there had to be a rebid or anything like that it could have been done, because as a pharmacist, people who need the medication that it’s going to be delayed,” said Mannino.

The owners of H&W Drug could not be reached for comment.

RX Greenhouse has a hearing in court scheduled for February.

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