BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Capitol Wellness Solutions is officially the first legally licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the Baton Rouge area. The company expects to be open by September.
"We have always been really excited about this opportunity because we can give access to the patients that really need this. So many patients have to go out of state and for us to be able to give this as a local option is something I'm really proud of," said Randy Mire, Capitol Wellness Solutions Owner and Chief Executive Officer.
During several hearings Tuesday, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy considered permit applications for pharmacies looking to dispense pharmaceutical grade marijuana. At this time, the board is only approving ten permits across the state. At least one permit will be awarded to a company in each of the nine health regions designated by the Louisiana Department of Health.
The board voted 9 - 0, unanimously deciding to award Capitol Wellness Solutions the sole permit for the capital area, which includes Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana parishes.
Mire said he expects to open the dispensary sometime late summer to September.
"We're working closely with LSU to watch their product line so that we can gauge when we can open. We feel that right after the end of summer, around September would be a good target date, but it depends on when product is ready," said Mire.
One of the biggest concerns, especially at the federal level, is diversion.
"We put together a huge team, with many consultants from out of state, many security companies, some local, to help make sure this was a huge success, said Mire. Capitol Wellness Solutions previously named former Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie as head of security.
Mark Slaugh, CEO of iComply was hired by Capitol Wellness Solutions as an out-of-state consultant to help with the application process.
"Louisiana's program calls into account a seed-to-sale tracking program so every gram that is sold has to be tracked, as well as every dollar, all the way to the bank," said Slaugh, who has reportedly helped with the successful opening of more than 200 dispensaries across the nation.
Capitol Wellness Solutions' dispensary will be located in the 7900 block of Picardy Avenue off Essen, in close proximity to two local hospitals and several clinics with patients suffering from some of the approved disease states that medical marijuana treats.
"What's really key is patient accessibility. If they can go straight from their doctor's appointment with their recommendation, or continually see their doctor at the same time they can pick up their medication, that's really important. This location is excellent for that. The fact that patients can arrive by bus or public transport is also very important," said Slaugh.
Pharmaceutical grade marijuana must be recommended by a doctor for therapeutic purposes because of the federal status of cannabis.
"The recommendation from a physician is not a standing prescription because you cannot prescribe a schedule one substance. In the eyes of the federal government, this plant has no medical benefit, even under the supervision of a doctor," explained Slaugh.
The state of Louisiana has a very pharmaceutical based model for medical marijuana. There's no inhalation or vaporization. However, the state legislature allows for the lawful possession of medical marijuana by a qualified patient. In Louisiana, doctors can recommend medical marijuana treatments to alleviate a limited number of severe, debilitating or life-threatening medical conditions, including cancer, seizure disorders and HIV/AIDS.
Capitol Wellness Solutions is looking at dispensing capsules, tinctures, transdermal patches and topical medications that people can use for treatments.
Three more cities received permits Wednesday to dispense medical marijuana in Louisiana. The state's pharmacy board approved licenses for dispensaries for West Monroe, Shreveport, and Alexandria.
Those cities now join Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and New Orleans, bringing the total to eight licensed medical marijuana shops in Louisiana.
Lawmakers capped the permits to 10.