In just over six weeks, the Louisiana medical marijuana market is expanding.
Flower, which is the smokable form of marijuana, will be available for medical use starting January 1st. Governor Edwards signed the measure into law in June.
"A lot of thorough work and research and intentionality had to go into producing a flower market because of the negative connotation of cannabis in itself. Education and emerging research show the benefits for patients."
Dr. Chanda Macias is the CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare, which is Southern University's contracted grower and manufacturer of medical cannabis, more commonly known as medical marijuana. Macias stands firm that cannabis is not only a vastly un-tapped natural medication but also a way to fight addiction.
"During the pandemic, over 93,000 people died because of opioid over usage. Today, there are no cases of any person overdosing with cannabis. It addresses pain, mental and physical, providing a safe solution to the public," Macias explains. "Our catalog of medical marijuana addresses specific issues and illnesses and has brought different solutions to patient's healthcare needs where traditional medications have failed them."
That message seems to be resonating.
According to MJBizDaily, a national marijuana business trade publication, the number of patients getting medical marijuana in Louisiana has grown from over 2,000 to over 14,000, in just two years. With the introduction of flower, sales are projected to double to around $100 million next year and $400 million by 2025.
Flower will be accessible at dispensaries around the state.
Omar Pecantte is the owner of Greenleaf Dispensary in Houma. Greenleaf is one of nine medical marijuana pharmacies in the state.
"Flower is the lowest cost because it's less manufacturing involved and refinement of cannabis."
Flower is new, however, there are multiple other forms of medial cannabis already on the market. There is a creme, similar to lotion, that is applied topically.
"You apply it right on the skin," explains Pecantte. "It has THC and CBD and is beneficial for arthritis, and joint pain, things of that nature."
Distillates are another option.
"It's thick like honey. Why, because it's so concentrated with THC. People will use this in edibles, cookies, brownies, as well as vaping."
Lastly, tinctures which are drops you put under your tongue that are absorbed into your blood stream.
Pecantte says there is a common misconception that medical marijuana is only for those with extreme ailments or illness, like cancer or a severe physical disabilities. He says that's just not the case.
"Anxiety, Depression, any condition whether physical or mental where medical cannabis can be a beneficial treatment option. We get clients from every walk of life. Active, working professionals. They run the gamut of cannabis patients."
Another advantage, the experts say, to getting a medical marijuana prescription here in Louisiana is safety.
Pecantte explains the medical marijuana industry in Louisiana is regulated by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture. He says all products are tested for pesticides, heavy metals and a number of other irregularities. If a batch does not meet the standards, it is destroyed. He says another way patients know they can trust what they are getting on the legal market is seen when they walk through a dispensary's doors.
"You meet and talk with a licensed pharmacist who guides you through the options and what is best for your needs."
For Macias, she hopes to see medical marijuana being talked about among patients and their doctors in the early stages of care.
"10 years from now, I'd love to see patients consider medical marijuana and one of the first lines of healthcare and not a last resort. I've seen people die from ailments that medical marijuana could have helped save."
Ilera Holistic Healthcare products are produced near Baton Rouge. https://ileraholistichealthcare.com/
Green Leaf Dispensary is located in Houma. The company makes at home deliveries throughout Acadiana. https://greenleaf-dispensary.com/
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