Only licensed medical cannabis cultivation in Ouachita Parish is legal by virtue of Act 261 or the Alison Neustrom Act passed in the State of Louisiana in 2015. It established the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. Updates were added by the legislation of Act 491, Act 492, and Act 628. The program’s regulation and licensing were transferred from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) starting August 1, 2022.
Only the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and the Southern University Agricultural Center are the licensed cultivators and manufacturers of medical cannabis in the state as the Alison Neustrom Act only allows two licensees and they had been given priority status.
According to Louisiana Administrative Code (LAC) 51:XXIX:101-907, each of these universities must renew their license annually every July 1st. Each of these universities is allowed to designate one permittee to cultivate medical cannabis crops and manufacture medical cannabis products on their behalf. Each chosen permittee must still apply to the LDH and pay a fee of $100,000 annually.
The Alison Neustrom Act requires medical cannabis cultivation and manufacturing to be done by the permittee indoors within a fully enclosed building that is screened from public sight. No odors, noise, or light must escape from the building. Adequate ventilation must be installed for the prevention of mold. All applicable state and municipal standards for building fire, electrical, and plumbing codes must be met. The facility must be protected against any unlawful entry by limiting access to authorized personnel only and establishing a security system comprised of locks, alarms, and video surveillance. Furthermore, the inventory system must be connected to the Louisiana Medical Marijuana Tracking System.
Only licensed medical cannabis product manufacturing in Ouachita Parish is legal as mandated by the Alison Neustrom Act, Act 491, Act 492, and Act 628 of the State of Louisiana. Only the respective permittees of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and the Southern University Agricultural Center are allowed to manufacture medical cannabis products in the state after meeting all the abovementioned requirements of the LDH and Act 261.
Any batch of medical cannabis products manufactured by the permittee cannot be sold before passing testing by a laboratory approved by the LDH. A random sample for submission to the testing laboratory must be taken from every batch either before it is portioned or packaged. The laboratory will release a certificate of analysis to be submitted to the LDH for each product batch that passes the test. If a batch fails, the permittee is granted one chance to remediate the batch and submit another random sample from it. If this also fails, the entire batch must be destroyed by the permittee.
LAC 7:XLIX:2903 requires that all packaging for medical cannabis and medical cannabis products have prior approval from the LDH and be child-proof, tamper-proof, and light-resistant. Packages that contain several portions must be resealable and remain child-proof even after resealing. Containers and labels must not appeal to minors and are prohibited from resembling those used for commercial beverages, snacks, baked items, and candies. No images must be used that would make it appear as if the product is being endorsed by the parish, state, or municipality.
Only the licensed retail selling of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to certified patients is legal in Ouachita Parish as stipulated by the State of Louisiana’s Acts 261, 491, 492, and 628. Licensed medical cannabis pharmacies are also allowed by Louisiana Revised Statute (RS) 40: 1046.1 to sell medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to visitors who are holders of valid medical cannabis cards from other states.
An application must be made to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy for a medical cannabis pharmacy license. Applications, however, closed on September 4, 2022. As of May 2023, there is one licensed medical pharmacy in each of the nine regions of the state. This includes one in Ouachita Parish, located in the City of Monroe, for Region 8.
The medical cannabis pharmacy licensee in each region will be allowed to open a satellite location if the number of active qualified patients reaches 3,500 based on data from the Prescription Monitoring Program. The count will be conducted yearly around August 1.
There must be a distance of 15 miles or more between licensed medical cannabis pharmacies. This distance can be reduced to 10 miles if the region contains a parish that has more than 350,000 residents. It can be further reduced to five miles if the region contains a municipality with more than 350,000 residents.
According to the State of Louisiana’s Act 424, certified patients are allowed to purchase from a licensed medical cannabis pharmacy a maximum of 2.5 ounces or 71 grams of raw cannabis flowers or the equivalent every 14-day period. However, certified patients younger than 21 need their doctor’s certification to show that they are allowed to use raw medical cannabis.
In addition to raw cannabis flowers, licensed medical cannabis pharmacies are also allowed to sell cannabis products such as concentrates, extracts, oils, tinctures, sprays, syringes, chews, pills, capsules, suspensions, solutions, suppositories, transdermal patches, edibles, metered dose inhalers, and topical preparations.
The delivery of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to certified patients by licensed medical cannabis pharmacies is legal in Ouachita Parish in accordance with Acts 261, 491, 492, and 628 of the State of Louisiana. In fact, all licensed medical cannabis pharmacies are required by Act 491 to provide home delivery services to certified patients residing in their respective regions no less than once a month.
It is also legal for permittees to transport medical cannabis to another permittee, a laboratory, a licensed medical cannabis pharmacy, or a disposal site. An inventory manifest must be created for every transfer.
The State of Louisiana does not issue medical cannabis cards. Instead, according to RS 40:1046, residents of Ouachita Parish must obtain a medical cannabis certification from an authorized clinician who must be any of the following:
State-licensed medical doctors considered by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to be in good standing
State-licensed medical psychologists considered by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners to be in good standing
State-licensed registered advanced practice nurses considered by the Louisiana State Board of Nursing to be in good standing
The medical cannabis certification will be issued by an authorized clinician for a patient diagnosed to be suffering from at least one of the following debilitating conditions:
Illness requiring palliative or hospice care
Lewy body dementia
Chronic pain from fibromyalgia
Traumatic brain injury
Chronic pain from sickle cell disease
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Spasticity or Intractable pain
Severe muscle spasms
Motor neuron disease
Spinal muscular atrophy
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Autism spectrum disorder exhibiting one of the following behaviors:
Aggressive or physically destructive behavior
Behavior resulting in self-injury
Severe stimulating or repetitive behavior that endangers the patient
Severe avoidance of people or lack of communication that places the patient at risk
The Medical Marijuana Program of the State of Louisiana may be contacted by the public through the following:
Address: 628 N. 4th Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) was authorized by Act 492 of the State of Louisiana to collect a monthly fee from each medical cannabis permittee equivalent to 7% of the gross sales of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products to licensed medical cannabis pharmacies. The collected amount is sent monthly to the Community and Family Support System Fund by the LDR for the administrative, regulatory, investigative, legal, and enforcement costs of the Medical Marijuana Program.
The 2021 Annual Report of the LDAF states that the collected medical cannabis license fees, background check fees, and employee permit fees for 2021 totaled $208,919.90. An additional $523,700 was contributed by the State General Fund (SGF). However, there was still a $19,420.29 deficit in covering the Medical Marijuana Program expenses.
Medical cannabis was first legalized in Ouachita Parish in 2015.
Data sent by the Ouachita County Sheriff's Office to the FBI’s Crime Explorer page shows that in 2014, the year prior to medical cannabis legalization, there were 473 marijuana offense arrests, comprised of 469 arrests for possession and four arrests for sales.
In 2016, the year after medical cannabis legalization, there were 512 marijuana offense arrests, comprised of 503 arrests for possession and nine arrests for sales.
In 2019, there were 478 marijuana offense arrests, comprised of 477 arrests for possession and one arrest for sales.
The latest available data in 2021 shows 483 marijuana offense arrests, all for possession.
The number of DUI arrests was as follows in those years:
2014: 187 arrests
2016: 72 arrests
2019: 33 arrests
2021: 17 arrests