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Louisiana’s medical marijuana program still needs some improvements

The state’s medical marijuana program was under review at the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 6:35 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The state’s medical marijuana program was under review at the Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 16.

Lawmakers received updates on the program since it was expanded in January to include smokable cannabis. Folks there hoped to get answers as to why their medical marijuana is still so expensive. The people supposed to give those answers, instead, came empty-handed.

“You know, it’s the middle of February, so they don’t really have numbers to know what flowers are done. You heard them say in the meeting that they were afraid to make a statement about that,” said Rep. Larry Bagley (R), who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee.

It’s been almost two months since Louisiana’s medical marijuana program was expanded to include raw smokable cannabis. The expansion was supposed to help make the medicine more affordable and accessible. But Wednesday, lawmakers found little evidence from licensed growers to support that. In fact, the growers, LSU and Southern, by state law are supposed to present a report each time they come to the Capitol. But, they did not have that either.

“We are guilty as charged on the report, we have no defense,” said Calvin Walker, vice chairman of Southern Universities AG Center.

“Even if they don’t do the research, they’re still supposed to submit a report, and they did not, and we need to see that to know what’s going on,” Rep. Bagley added.

Patients said their biggest gripe with the program right now, in terms of the flower products, is the lack of quality, accessibility, and still the price of medicine.

Jacob Gulino uses cannabis to treat his anxiety and PTSD and said the prices are similar to other states, but the quality is not the same.

“The price is really high for the quality you are getting. There are a lot of states that $50 or $60 eighths are normal, but you’re paying for that premium, that top quality cure, top quality inputs, and everything that’s going into the flower itself,” said Gulino.

“It’s helped me in numerous different ways from mental health, physical health, being able to sleep or concentrate. Now the pricing, for a person who works daily like I do and works for a living, it’s accessible, but I can definitely see how people who don’t have a constant source of income it can be trivial for them to get the product,” said Melissa Do Egito, another medical marijuana patient.

Capitol Wellness Solutions in Baton Rouge say one of the ways they try to reduce prices is by offering discounts to patients who order online. They say their shelves always have a product available even if one strain is temporarily out.

“Even if they don’t have the specific strain that I’ve been wanting, they always have the backup that works with what I need,” Egito continued.

Egito said even though the prices are high, knowing where her medicine is coming from and knowing what goes into growing the plant, a few extra bucks are worth the convenience.

The committee said by the time they meet again there should be enough data to show how much the flower form is helping the program.

Rep. Bagley said he even plans to introduce legislation to expand the number of dispensaries and licensed growers for the state.

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