MADISONVILLE, La. — Louisiana is now the first Deep South state to dispense medical marijuana, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access to therapeutic cannabis.
GB Sciences, one of two state-sanctioned growers, shipped medical marijuana to Louisiana's registered dispensaries Tuesday morning, after state regulators recently completed final tests and cleared it for release.
Patients lined up to fill their prescriptions at the nine pharmacies licensed to dispense medical marijuana in Louisiana.
One of the first in line was former Louisiana State Senator Tony Guarisco, who authored Louisiana's first medical marijuana bill in 1978.
"I caught a lot of heat by being a politician that was 'giving drugs to the kids,'" Guarisco said. "It's great to go from pariah to respect ... A lot of people are going to get relief that have suffered for many years."
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Guarisco took his first dose in front of reporters at the pharmacy, noting that his wife would be driving him home after.
Doctors won't issue a prescription for medicinal marijuana, 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.
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. Randy Mire, owner of Capitol Wellness Solutions in Baton Rouge, said the cost at his pharmacy will range from $99 to $200 per product.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.