BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - It’s been more than three years since medical marijuana was legalized in Louisiana, but patients are still waiting for the product to be available in the nine approved pharmacies. Now, pharmacists who were told medical marijuana would be available in February may have to wait for several more months while the final tests are completed.
Agriculture centers at LSU and Southern University are the only legal growers in the state. LSU is further along in the process and contracts with GB Sciences to grow the plants for medical purposes. John Davis, president of GB Sciences said they are working as fast as they can to get their product to those who need it.
“We have a lot of people who are depending upon us to do this. So we’re trying to move as fast as we possibly can, and government doesn’t move as fast as the private sector,” Davis said.
Davis said they already have a facility up and running, and are waiting for approval from the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Mike Strain, the department commissioner said the inspection will be done soon, but there are still more steps to go beyond that.
“We do expect that we’ll probably have a final inspection that will be completed probably in the next few weeks, so that’s very very close. But in order for them to populate that with plants and begin production, they have to complete the suitability background check as required by state law,” Strain said.
The suitability check is conducted by Louisiana State Police to make sure there isn’t a conflict of interest with company stockholders.
Additionally, the plants from GB Sciences are currently undergoing testing by the state for pesticides and heavy metals and are awaiting the results.
“We expect [to be done] within two to three weeks," Strain said. “Some of these things take longer. You know, when you start looking at solvents, and again, when you’re setting up the first parameters. But we do have preliminary results on the amount of THC, the amount of cabanoids in the samples.”
If the first round of testing passes, the marijuana will have to go through a second phase of testing, which Strain said will take another several weeks.
"Once we go through that second round of testing, they'll be testing for potency. So, making sure that what's in the product is on the label," Davis said.
Even still, once all the inspections and tests pass, Strain said growing, harvesting and drying the plants is a long process.
"If they started today, it takes a couple of months just to go from a tissue culture to a tincture," Strain said.
Strain said Southern University should have medical marijuana available this year as well.