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State lawmakers say medical marijuana program isn’t expanding fast enough

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Indoor nursery for medical marijuana cultivation. (istock)

Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain came under fire today from state lawmakers who have complained that his regulatory agency is moving too slowly in expanding medical marijuana products available to patients.

Strain, a Republican, told a special legislative committee looking into the state’s medical vessel program that it wouldn’t harm the public safety of accelerating new products.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards and the GOP majority legislature this year approved new laws to expand available medical marijuana products and the ability of physicians to recommend the drug for any disease. But Strain is controlling the pace of that rollout through product testing and regulations.

“When I look back and forth, it feels like a partial administration,” said Republican Representative Debbie Filio of Keener Listerine. “I see it as a back-and-forth significantly delaying the transformation of a product from a farmer to a pharmacy to a patient,” she added.

Republican Representative Thomas Pressley of Shreveport echoed similar concerns: “My concern is that we’re going to slow this thing down even more.”

Strain says he’s focused on health and safety as his division works through the process of enacting regulations for new laws and approving products like edible gum.

“All we do is protect the public,” Strain says. “We have to do it right.”

Tabitha Irvine, director of the USDA’s medical marijuana program, doubted that the department was slowing down.

“We don’t block any products for them to sell,” she said. But lawmakers noted that Strain was inflating the market.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” says Republican Representative Scott McKnight of Baton Rouge. “No one looks at Louisiana as a best practice.”

LSU, Southern University and their growing private sector partners are the only entities that can legally grow, process and deliver marijuana to the state’s nine licensed therapeutic cannabis pharmacies.

The latest expansion by the legislature and governor will allow medical marijuana to be sold in its raw form, rather than just oil tinctures, starting in January.

Grow guide for marijuana beginners.

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