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Medical Marijuana From the Ground Up

Sue Lincoln

How do you start a whole new industry from the ground up, especially when that industry is medical marijuana? That’s what state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain has to figure out. His department has to come up with the rules and regulations for producing and processing the marijuana by January.

“We are responsible all the way from the seed to the delivery of the final chemical product,” Strain told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

He says SB 143 by Fred Mills – now Act No. 261 -- has presented many questions to which there are no easy answers.

“How much seed does the Ag Center have? How much seed does anybody, in any legal capacity have? How do we test the seed when it comes in? We don’t know yet how much we have to produce, how many square feet the buildings going to be. What are security protocols?”

Strain says he’s got a full team working on finding those answers, in co-operation with the Board of Pharmacy.

After all, growing plants is one thing, but producing medicine from those plants is something else entirely.

“We have to develop an extraction mechanism to extract these active ingredients,” Strain explained. “At the end of the day, we must have a good product—a product that is safe and that has a strong efficacy.”

Since the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic, it cannot be transported across state lines in any form. Strain says Louisiana has to do this whole set-up alone, and still keep the liquid, oil or pills affordable.

“We’re developing a product that most probably will not be covered by insurance,” Strain said of the need for affordability of the end product.

He said there’s one question everybody is asking: “How long from today till the first patient gets a product?”

The answer is, at least two years.

“We intend to be very open about the process, and we are going to cross every ‘T’ and double-dot every ‘I’.”