The State of Louisiana was expected to launch medical cannabis sales in November. However, regulatory hurdles have slowed down the process of making cannabis commercially available in the state.
This time around, it is the failure to find a cannabis testing laboratory. This means that patients will have to wait much longer before they can get their hands on the drug.
The agriculture department will do the testing
With the lack of success finding an independent lab, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry will have to handle product testing temporarily. The department took over as regulator of the state’s medical cannabis program in 2016.
According to the department’s spokesperson, Veronica Mosgrove, it will take four to six weeks for the test results to come out. She explained that regulators would be testing the cannabis for pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants.
The department will have to test the final cannabis product, too. This step is to ensure that the formulation as indicated in the packaging label matches the main content.
This second round of testing will take a much shorter amount of time than the first, the spokesperson noted.
Two licensed cannabis growers
GB Sciences Louisiana was to supposed to harvest its first cannabis crops this October and to submit samples for testing by Nov. 1. GB Sciences is one of the state’s two licensed cannabis growers.
The other licensed cannabis cultivation company is Advanced Biomedics. Compared to GB Sciences, it is much farther behind in terms of cannabis growth process.
As for the actual sales, the state’s pharmacy board had awarded nine pharmacies the license to sell medical cannabis. Most of these pharmacies had said they will be ready to sell medical pot by January 2019 or earlier.
No qualified lab applicant
The agriculture department had invited independent in-state testing laboratories to apply for cannabis testing permits. However, the department said that they were not able to receive applications from suitable companies.
An independent testing partner has been a part of the department’s rule since becoming the official regulator of the medical cannabis program.
Mosgrove said that the department had tried to identify a laboratory that met their criteria to conduct all the testing. But, in anticipation of any delay that this particular process would cause, the department also invested around $800,000 in setting up its own testing facility.
Now, the agriculture department will need to make an emergency change in the state’s law that would allow them to test cannabis products.
The search will continue
Mosgrove explained that despite their expanded testing capabilities, the department will still continue to identify any independent labs that are interested. She said that the department will still need help with the expected heavy load of cannabis products to be tested and the expected increase in the number of qualified patients.
She said that if the department detects a problem as the regulator, a third-party lab can verify their initial results.
So when will medical cannabis be available?
According to the latest timetable that GB Sciences provided, patients might have to wait until January to access medical cannabis.