If you’re wondering how to get medical marijuana in Louisiana, be advised that the process itself is oddly “beguiling” (for lack of a better term). On the one hand the state has one of the simplest, most straightforward recommendation processes (see below for more details), but on the other hand there are also few doctors that have been willing to go through the certification process that’s required to issue pot prescriptions.
Furthermore, even for those Louisiana patients that have received a recommendation from a doctor, medical marijuana is still not available to buy or grow in the state, as delays have pushed back the launch date of the program for well over a year.
In this article – in addition of course to explaining how to apply for medical marijuana in Louisiana – we discuss everything you need to know about cannabis in the state: how it works, what you have to do to get approved, and when you can expect to actually start buying legal products.
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Medical Marijuana Laws in Louisiana: A Brief History
The state of Louisiana has had a relatively “unique” history with cannabis over the years; depending on who exactly you talk to, weed has actually been ‘legal’ at the medicinal level since 1978.
However, due to lack of activity on behalf of Louisiana authorities that would have/should have be responsible for actually implementing the program, not a single gram of medical marijuana flower has ever been sold in the state – at least not to a qualified, legal patient.
In 2015 however, lawmakers took a massive step forward with the MMJ program by passing Act 261 – a law that allows qualified doctors to actually prescribe/recommend medical marijuana to select patients.
Among other things, the act provides a legal framework “relative to the therapeutic use of marijuana, [and] provides for the adoption of rules and regulations relating to the prescribing, dispensing, and producing of marijuana for therapeutic use.”
The passing of this law sounded well and good to potential patients at the time, but ask anyone who has been interested in applying for medical marijuana in Louisiana over the last few years, and they’ll tell you that the program has provided not much more than a long-term headache.
Even though there are doctors actively seeing patients in the state and issuing prescriptions/recommendations for the use of medical cannabis, issues at the regulatory level have delayed pharmacies from actually opening and selling/dispensing medication. Let’s take a little deeper look to find out what’s been the holdup.
Medical Cannabis in Louisiana: How Does it Work?
Once the Louisiana medical marijuana program actually gets up and running, it will in fact offer one of the simplest, most straightforward MMJ licensing processes in the country. Basically, all you have to do to get approved for cannabis is find a doctor that is willing to meet with you and discuss your condition – as well as your previous experience with cannabis. Of course, only select individuals with qualifying medical conditions may be permitted to apply for medical cannabis in Louisiana:
Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana in Louisiana:
- HIV / AIDS
- Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
- Seizures / Epilepsy
- Spasticity (including severe muscle spasms)
- Crohn’s disease
- Muscular dystrophy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Intractable pain
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Specific symptoms of autism spectrum disorder
As you might have guessed, the condition of “intractable pain” naturally may stem from an array of other underlying ailments, so be advised that the above list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in LA is not necessarily a comprehensive one.
How to Apply for Medical Marijuana in Louisiana
Unlike other states, the state of Louisiana does not have a specific application program that one must complete in order to apply for medical marijuana. In fact, patients do not so much “apply” for medical cannabis as they do simply meet with a doctor to discuss their condition.
However, finding a medical marijuana doctor in Louisiana is not necessarily an easy task. There are conflicting reports as to how many physicians in the state are actually qualified to issue marijuana prescriptions (one source cited as many as 68, while another said there were fewer than ten), but what we do know is that before any Louisiana doctor can issue a recommendation for medical cannabis, he or she must complete an online program in order to obtain their ‘Therapeutic Marijuana Registration’.
Basically, this registration gives them access to the Board of Pharmacy’s Medical Cannabis Registry. Once they have access, doctors can add and remove patients as they see fit. A patient that is entered into the Louisiana Medical Marijuana Registry may buy, possess, and use various forms of therapeutic cannabis (that is of course once pharmacies become open for business).
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Louisiana
Again, be advised that if you do receive a valid physician’s recommendation and end up qualifying for medical cannabis in the state, there still really is no such thing as a “Medical Marijuana Card in Louisiana.” Rather, you will simply be placed in the state’s Online Registry, at which point you can visit a cannabis pharmacy (when they open) to buy legal medication.
If you are interested in getting a medical marijuana “card” in Louisiana, here are the steps you must take:
Step 1: Find a Doctor
Simply put, you won’t be getting medical cannabis in Louisiana without first seeing a licensed, practicing doctor. As we mentioned earlier however, there are few in the state that have taken the online program required to obtain their Therapeutic Marijuana Registration.
We will say that Dr. Victor Chou’s Medical Marijuana Clinic of Louisiana (located in Baton Rouge) is an excellent option, as he has already seen thousands of patients and entered many into the LA Board of Pharmacy’s online registry.
Once cannabis pharmacies begin to open up in the state, his patients will be able to legally buy medical marijuana in Louisiana. You can learn more by visiting his website, or you can call 225-800-3162 to schedule an in-person cannabis consultation.
There are a handful of other doctors that issue marijuana prescriptions in Louisiana, but you will have to call around and search for them as, to our knowledge at least, there is no specific database that lists LA physicians who have obtained their Therapeutic Marijuana Registration.
Step 2: Visit a Pharmacy
As we discussed earlier, once you’ve found a doctor that can issue you a cannabis prescription in Louisiana, you will be entered into the LA Board of Pharmacy’s therapeutic marijuana registry as a qualified patient. Once in the registry, you may visit any one of the state’s licensed marijuana pharmacies to purchase meds.
Wanting to Buy Medical Marijuana in Louisiana? Here’s Why It Keeps Getting Delayed
Even for the hundreds of patients that have already been approved for medical cannabis in Louisiana, none of them have yet been able to buy any medication. Simply put, this is because none of the state’s nine approved marijuana pharmacies are open for business.
Medical marijuana in Louisiana is unique in that it requires academic research organizations to be responsible for the growth and oversight of the plants that will be used to make the medicine. Currently, Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southern University in Baton Rouge are the only two organizations allowed to supply the state’s nine pharmacies with legal marijuana meds.
Both LSU and Southern have hired independent third-party companies (GB Sciences and Ilera Holistic Healthcare, respectively) to conduct the grow operations, but conflicts regarding regulatory oversight and product testing have resulted in multiple delays to the program’s start date — hence the reason why medical marijuana in Louisiana is still not available to purchase for qualified patients.
If you are a qualified patient and are wondering when you might be able to visit a pharmacy and buy marijuana in Louisiana, most estimates are saying that it will be May 2019 at the absolute earliest before pharmacies begin to open. And this is for LSU’s supplier GB Sciences; it appears that the other supplier, Southern University/Ilera Holistic Healthcare, will not be expecting to have product available for pharmacies until Fall 2019, at the earliest.
Final Thoughts on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Louisiana
If you are interested in getting a medical marijuana card in Louisiana, the process is really as simple as meeting with a qualified doctor and obtaining a prescription that will enter you into the Board of Pharmacy’s online registry. You will need to be diagnosed with one of the state’s qualifying medical conditions (listed above), as well as find a Louisiana doctor that is actually approved to recommend medical cannabis.
Also, in terms of the program itself, medical cannabis in Louisiana will not be available in traditional flower form to be smoked. To our understanding, it will only be available in the following forms:
One of the great things about the Louisiana program however is that it places the majority of responsibility on medical professionals rather than profit-seeking businesses. In other words, your meds will be in the hands of a licensed pharmacist rather than a dispensary manager, who really is nothing more than a salesman/woman.
As Dr. Chou puts it above, cannabis dispensaries in other states essentially have no legal or ethical obligation to you as a patient, as they are nothing more than independent businesses looking to push a product for profit. When your medication and treatment protocol is in the hands of doctors and pharmacists however, this is not the case as they are responsible (under moral and legal implications) for your overall health, safety, and well-being.
While individuals may have to wait until the latter stages of 2019 to buy medical marijuana in Louisiana, at least they can rest assured that they will be patients of one of the most regulated, responsible MMJ programs in the country.
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