The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry was initially tasked to be the regulatory agency for the state’s Medical Marijuana Program. However, as of August 1, 2022, medical marijuana regulation was transferred to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) by Act 491 and Act 492.
As mandated by the Alison Neustrom Act, the only licensed medical cannabis cultivators in the state are the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and the Southern University Agricultural Center. According to Louisiana Administrative Code (LAC) 51:XXIX:101-907, the LDH can only issue the annual license renewal to cultivate medical cannabis to these two existing licensees on or before July 1 each year. Each is allowed only one contractor, referred to as a permittee, to cultivate, process, transport, and distribute medical cannabis.
Act 628 states that the two medical cannabis licensees must require contractors applying for permits to undergo competitive bidding, which Act 491 specifies to be compliant with the Louisiana Procurement Code. Each applicant must also undergo and pass a criminal history background check and apply to the LDH for the annual permit. Each contractor is required to pay the LDH a $10,000.00 nonrefundable application fee and a $100,000.00 annual license fee.
Act 491 and LAC 51:XXIX:101-907 state that the LDH is authorized to inspect the contractors’ cultivation facilities at least twice every fiscal year to ensure compliance with the following guidelines:
The medical cannabis production facility must be completely indoors, fully enclosed by walls connected from the ground to the roof, and made of sturdy materials that are easy to clean.
The walls and floor must firmly stand on a strong foundation and slab.
There must be enough space for the cultivation, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, and storage of medical cannabis.
The medical cannabis production facility and its operations must be visually screened off completely and not be visible from beyond its boundaries.
There must not be any perceptible odors, noise, and light pollution emanating from the cultivation facility.
There must be adequate lighting and ventilation to prevent the development of mold and other contamination.
The medical cannabis production facility must meet applicable local and state standards on building, fire, electrical, and plumbing codes.
The facility must be secured with locks and a security system that includes alarms and continuously recording video surveillance with an on-site display monitor and date-and-time-stamped archiving. Archived recordings must be kept for 30 days at the minimum. Only authorized personnel must have access to surveillance monitoring and controls.
A panic device and silent alarm must be installed and connected to law enforcement.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the minimum, the medical cannabis production facility must have security personnel on-site. At all other times when there is no security personnel on-site, electronic security monitoring must be maintained off-site.
Entry to areas with restricted access must be locked, with appropriate signage posted.
Visitors must be allowed only for official purposes, shall be logged in and out, and shall be accompanied at all times in restricted areas where medical cannabis is present.
The cultivation facility must be connected to the Louisiana Medical Marijuana Tracking System (LMMTS).
Each plant and medical cannabis product must be tagged with a unique identification number.
Every purchase, sale, transfer, or waste disposal of medical cannabis or any medical cannabis product must be recorded in the LMMTS within 24 hours.
The medical cannabis production facility must maintain a current log of all its employees.
Yes, it is legal to manufacture cannabis in St. Tammany Parish but only for medical use as stipulated by the Alison Neustrom Act passed in 2015 by the Louisiana Legislature and subsequently modified by Act 491, Act 492, and Act 628, among others.
The permit granted by the LDH to a contractor of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center or the Southern University Agricultural Center includes not just permission to cultivate medical cannabis but also to extract, process, and produce medical cannabis products. The fees paid already cover these activities. Permittees are expected to comply with all LDH guidelines listed above.
In addition, each batch of medical cannabis products must undergo and pass testing by a laboratory approved by the LDH. The permittee must take a sample from every batch and have this tested either before the product is apportioned or before it is packaged. The testing laboratory will issue a certificate of analysis to be submitted to the LDH. A batch that fails the test may be remediated and retested once. If it fails again, the batch must be destroyed.
According to LAC 7:XLIX:2903, the regulatory department, meaning the LDH, must approve the packaging of medical cannabis. All containers must be tamper-proof, light-resistant, and child-resistant even after several uses if resealable. The packaging must not be attractive to minors and must not resemble the packaging of commercially sold snacks, candies, baked goods, or drinks. It must not use any visuals to lead anyone to think that the state, parish, or municipality has manufactured or is endorsing it.
Yes, it is legal to sell cannabis by retail in St. Tammany Parish, but only medical marijuana and medical marijuana products can be sold by pharmacies licensed by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. They can only sell these to qualified patients preceded by a doctor’s certification. Louisiana Revised Statute (RS) 40: 1046.1 also allows a visiting qualifying patient who holds a valid medical marijuana card from another state may also purchase medical cannabis from a licensed pharmacy.
Act 491 limits the initial number of medical cannabis pharmacy licenses to be issued statewide to 10, with one licensed pharmacy per administrative region of the LDH and an additional licensed pharmacy in the most populated region. Once a region has reached 3,500 active qualified patients, the Board of Pharmacy may allow the licensed pharmacy to open a satellite location separate from its current registered location but also within the region. An active qualified patient is defined as a qualified patient who has purchased medical cannabis at least once in the previous 12 months ending on July 31.
If the main pharmacy and its satellite location are serving 3,500 active qualified patients each, the Board of Pharmacy may allow a second satellite pharmacy location in the region. However, if the licensed medical cannabis pharmacy does not wish to open a second satellite pharmacy location, the Board of Pharmacy may grant a second medical cannabis pharmacy license in the region. The maximum number of licensed medical cannabis pharmacies and satellites that can be approved statewide is 30.
In a region that includes a municipality of more than 350,000 residents, licensed medical cannabis pharmacies are not allowed to be within a five-mile radius of each other. In a region that includes a parish of more than 350,000 residents, licensed medical cannabis pharmacies are not allowed to be within a 10-mile radius of each other. In all other regions, licensed medical cannabis pharmacies are not allowed to be within a 15-mile radius of each other.
According to Louisiana’s Act 424, a licensed medical cannabis pharmacy is allowed to sell up to a maximum of 71 grams or 2.5 ounces of raw cannabis flowers every 14 days to each qualified patient. If the patient is younger than 21 years old, the doctor’s certification must specify that the patient is allowed to purchase medical cannabis in raw form.
Raw cannabis flowers can be smoked. Medical cannabis delivered through a metered-dose inhaler is also allowed. Both the smoking and metered inhalation of medical cannabis were prohibited in the 2015 version of the law. Other forms of medical cannabis that licensed pharmacies are currently allowed to sell include concentrates, tinctures, edible gelatin chews, syringes, and topicals, as mentioned in the 2021 annual report of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry to the Louisiana State Legislature regarding the Medical Marijuana Program.
Yes, it is legal to deliver cannabis in St. Tammany Parish, but only medical cannabis. Act 491 stipulates that each licensed medical cannabis pharmacy is required to provide home delivery of medical cannabis at least once every month to qualified patients in every zip code inside its region. Medical marijuana and medical marijuana products may also be transported by permittees to a testing laboratory, another permittee, or a licensed medical cannabis pharmacy.
Before transport, the permittee must create an inventory manifest in the LMMTS with the following information:
The name of the permittee sending the delivery
The name of the recipient
The number of units or weight of each type of medical cannabis product to be delivered
The date and approximate time of delivery
The name of the permittee’s personnel doing the delivery
The make, model, and license plate number of the delivery vehicle
A copy of the manifest must be provided to the recipient of the delivery.
In St. Tammany Parish and the rest of Louisiana, medical marijuana cards are not issued. Instead, as stipulated by RS 40:1046, a patient must get a certification from an authorized clinician recommending the use of medical cannabis for a debilitating medical condition. This serves as the permit to purchase medical cannabis. The recommendation may be done through telemedicine consultations.
Clinicians authorized to provide medical cannabis certifications include:
State-licensed physicians in good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners
State-licensed Medical psychologists in good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners
State-licensed and registered advanced practice nurses with prescriptive authority and in good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Nursing
Authorized clinicians may issue a certification recommending medical cannabis treatment for any condition that their education and training qualify them to treat and which they consider debilitating. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
Lewy body dementia
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Motor neuron disease
Spinal muscular atrophy
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Cachexia or wasting syndrome
Severe muscle spasms
Traumatic brain injury
Chronic pain from sickle cell disease
Chronic pain from fibromyalgia
Any illness requiring palliative or hospice care
Autism spectrum disorder with any of the following behavior:
Behavior resulting in self-injury
Severe repetitive or stimulating behavior endangering the patient
Severe lack of communication or avoidance of people that results in putting the patient at risk
Aggressive or physically destructive behavior
For queries on Louisiana’s Medical Marijuana Program, the LDH may be contacted through the following:
Louisiana Department of Health
P.O. Box 629
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0629
Phone: (225) 342-9500
Fax: (225) 342-5568
Business Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
According to Act 492, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) shall collect from licensees or their cultivation and manufacturing contractors 7% of the gross sales of medical cannabis to licensed medical cannabis pharmacies. The LDR is mandated to deposit this collection monthly into the Community and Family Support System Fund. Part of it will be allocated to regulatory, administrative, legal, investigative, and enforcement expenses related to the Medical Marijuana Program.
The 2021 annual report of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry stated that revenues from license fees, background check fees, and employee permit fees for the calendar year 2021 totaled $208,919.90. From the State General Fund (SGF), $523,700 was added to come up with the Program’s annual expenditure budget of $732,619.90. Expenses, however, exceeded revenues by $19,420.29, resulting in a deficit.
House Bill 709 attempted to legalize recreational cannabis but failed to pass in May 2021. According to the Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office, if HB 709 was passed, it would increase revenues but more is needed to cover the increased expenditure that it would cause. Additional SGF appropriation would be needed.
While medical cannabis was legalized in 2015, medical cannabis was first released in 2019 by licensed medical marijuana pharmacies. According to information provided by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer page, in 2018, there were 639 arrests for marijuana possession and 19 for marijuana manufacturing or sales. In 2020, this decreased to 454 arrests for marijuana possession, but the arrests for marijuana manufacturing or sales increased to 39.
There were 135 DUI arrests in 2018. This increased to 168 in 2020.