Tuesday August 20, 2019

Louisiana to Dispense Therapeutic Cannabis

Nine pharmacies are licensed to dispense medical marijuana across Louisiana and most are expected to open this week

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Alex Domino, right, the first ever person to legally receive medical marijuana in Louisiana, purchases his dose at Capitol Wellness Solutions, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Aug. 6, 2019. VOA

A Marine veteran struggling with PTSD and a woman fighting cancer became some of the first people to purchase medical marijuana in Louisiana on Tuesday, as the state became the first in the Deep South to dispense therapeutic cannabis, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access to it.

Nine pharmacies are licensed to dispense medical marijuana across Louisiana and most are expected to open this week. Louisiana joins more than 30 other states that allow medical marijuana in some form. And though marijuana is banned at the federal level, a congressional amendment blocks the Justice Department from interfering with states’ medical marijuana programs.

A 41-year-old combat veteran from Belle Chasse, Louisiana, made his purchase at Capitol Wellness Solutions on Tuesday. He said he’d tried medical marijuana in California and it changed his life but he was happy to be able to purchase it in his home state.

“It has become a reality to my family this morning, waking up and knowing that I would be able to go home and for the first time in my long struggle, I’ll be able to do this legally in front of my family,” Gary Hess told reporters before making his purchase. “That’s incredible.”

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TJ Woodard, left, pharmacist in charge for Capitol Wellness Solutions, consults with Jeanette Anthony and her husband Albert Anthony, before he dispenses medical marijuana for Jeanette, a brain cancer patient, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Aug. 6, 2019. VOA

GB Sciences, one of two state-sanctioned growers, began shipping medical marijuana to Louisiana’s registered dispensaries Tuesday morning, after state regulators recently completed final tests and cleared it for release. Hundreds of patients in Louisiana have been awaiting the start of the program after years of work by lawmakers, who created the regulatory framework in 2015 for dispensing the cannabis. There also have been regulatory disputes and other hurdles.

State Sen. Fred Mills, a pharmacist in St. Martin Parish who sponsored the medical marijuana law, never thought it would take years for patients to gain access. He said he has repeatedly received “difficult calls” from people with cancer, seizures and other debilitating conditions and their family members asking when cannabis will reach pharmacy shelves.

“The toughest thing has been not being able to give people a definitive timeline that they could make plans for,” Mills said.

Randy Mire, owner of Capitol Wellness Solutions in Baton Rouge, saw three patients Tuesday and hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at his spa-like offices in the state’s capitol. He has hundreds more patients waiting. He said he specifically wanted to create a welcoming office space so patients could feel safe and that they were in a place where they wouldn’t be judged.

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For many of the patients, Tuesday was a big relief, he said.

“Maybe they’ve had to use medical marijuana not legally in the past and now they’re able to actually have a legal recommendation for this,” he said.

Only the Louisiana State University and Southern University agricultural centers are authorized to grow medicinal-grade pot.

Regulatory disagreements between GB Sciences, LSU’s grower, and state regulators in Louisiana’s agriculture department slowed getting the product to shelves, with medical marijuana advocates claiming the agency created unnecessary regulatory hurdles.

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A Marine veteran struggling with PTSD and a woman fighting cancer became some of the first people to purchase medical marijuana in Louisiana on Tuesday. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Southern broke ties with the first company it chose to grow marijuana, delaying its efforts. Southern’s new grower Ilera Holistic Healthcare planted its first crop two weeks ago and estimates its first product could be available by fall at the earliest.

Under the 2015 law and additional changes passed since then, Louisiana is allowing medical marijuana to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease.

Albert Anthony was at Capitol Wellness Solutions with his wife Jeanette, who suffers from a rare type of brain cancer. He said she hadn’t tried medical marijuana before but he had and hoped it would have some benefits for her such as increasing her appetite.

“That’s a great feeling, you know, that you can get a product that’s legal now and we’re just glad to see it come to pass,” he said.

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Doctors don’t issue a prescription but a “physician recommendation form,” a legal nuance aimed at keeping doctors from jeopardizing their medical licenses because federal law prohibits prescribing marijuana. Eighty-eight doctors around the state have been approved for the Louisiana permit required to offer medical-grade pot to patients.

Marijuana can be available in oils, pills, liquids, topical applications and an inhaler, such as that used by asthma patients — but not in a smokeable form.

GB Sciences’ first product will be liquid tinctures, in three different concentrations. John Davis, GB Sciences Louisiana president, said he expects to have dissolving strips taken by mouth available in a month, followed by topical creams.

Pharmacies set their own price for the products, and insurance won’t be covering the cost, so patients will have to pay out of pocket. Mire said the cost at his pharmacy will range from $99 to $200 per product. (VOA)

Next Story

Regular Pot Smokers May Need Higher Dosage for Sedation: Study

Cannabis use in the United States increased 43 per cent between 2007 and 2015. An estimated 13.5 per cent of the adult population used cannabis during this period, with the greatest increase recorded among people 26 and older

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An employee inspects the leaf of a cannabis plant at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel. (VOA)

People who regularly use cannabis may require more than two times the usual level of sedation when undergoing medical procedures, warns a new study.

“Some of the sedative medications have dose-dependent side effects, meaning the higher the dose, the greater likelihood for problems,” said lead researcher Mark Twardowski from Western Medical Associates in Colorado, US.

“That becomes particularly dangerous when suppressed respiratory function is a known side effect,” Twardowski added.

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In this July 12, 2018 file photo, a newly-transplanted cannabis cuttings grow in pots at a medical marijuana cultivation facility in Massachusetts. (VOA)

For the study, the researchers in Colorado examined the medical records of 250 patients who received endoscopic procedures after 2012, when the state legalised recreational cannabis.

Patients who smoked or ingested cannabis on a daily or weekly basis required 14 per cent more fentanyl, 20 per cent more midazolam, and 220 per cent more propofol to achieve optimum sedation for routine procedures, including colonoscopy, showed the findings published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

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“Cannabis has some metabolic effects we don’t understand and patients need to know that their cannabis use might make other medications less effective. We’re seeing some problematic trends anecdotally, and there is virtually no formal data to provide a sense of scale or suggest any evidence-based protocols,” Twardowski said.

Cannabis use in the United States increased 43 per cent between 2007 and 2015. An estimated 13.5 per cent of the adult population used cannabis during this period, with the greatest increase recorded among people 26 and older, according to the study. (IANS)