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New Orleans is About To Get Its First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

After Louisiana’s Pharmacy Board rejected its own subcommittee’s recommendation, New Orleans is about to get its first medical marijuana dispensary.

Adam Drury

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New Orleans is About To Get Its First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

The Big Easy is about to pass a major milestone in the ongoing expansion of Louisiana’s medical marijuana program. Thanks to a come from behind victory from the second-generation owner of a father-son pharmacy that’s been in business since the sixties, New Orleans is about to get its first medical marijuana dispensary.

Louisiana Awards Dispensary Permit To New Orleans Pharmacist With Roots In The Community

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Pharmacy Board awarded Ruston Henry, pharmacist and owner of H&W Drug Store, with a permit to operate one of the state’s first ten medical marijuana dispensaries.

Founded in 1961, H&W Drug Store has changed hands and changed locations a couple of times over the years. But the pharmacy has always been a fixture of New Orleans’ 9th Ward, serving the community for over half a century.

Ruston, the son of Sterling J. Henry, took over the family business from his father in 1999. And in a last-ditch effort to win the permit, he appealed to that sense of tradition.

Henry’s testimony certainly worked. Because going into the advisory panel’s discussion, a subcommittee of the Pharmacy Board had ranked H&W Drug Store fourth out of five applicants for Region 1. Region 1 includes New Orleans and neighboring cities.

The board ultimately rejected the subcommittee’s first recommendation, The Rx Greenhouse, because of a poor choice of location that raised concerns among some members. The Rx Greenhouse, which operates another dispensary in Maryland, planned to set up shop in an existing building near an indoor playground area.

Seizing the opportunity, Henry made sure to convey to the board his pharmacy’s long-standing roots in the community. The board voted unanimously, at 9-0, to award the permit to H&W.

Louisiana Will Approve At Least Nine Medical Marijuana Dispensaries This Week

State health officials have divided Louisiana into nine designated healthcare regions. According to the state’s medical marijuana law, each region will initially get one dispensary. The Pharmacy Board plans to issue additional permits on an as-needed basis.

On Tuesday, the board approved permits for dispensaries in Regions 1 through 4. Located in Region 1, New Orleans is about to get its first medical marijuana dispensary, along with cities in the other three regions. The board will award permits to pharmacies in Regions 5-9 on Wednesday.

But restrictions built into the medical marijuana program will shape the kinds of products dispensaries can sell.

Louisiana law prohibits the sale of cannabis in any kind of smokable form. However, medical cannabis patients in Louisiana will be able to access the drug in pill, oil, spray and topical forms.

As in other states, patients will need a recommendation from a physician registered with the state’s medical marijuana program. Qualifying conditions include chronic, severe, debilitating diseases, like cancer, Crohn’s disease, and epilepsy.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Louisiana will also face restrictions governing the source of cannabis products they can sell.

The raw, medical-grade cannabis can only come from agricultural centers at Southern University and Louisiana State University. And vendors under contract with those universities are the only ones that can process and manufacture non-smokable medical cannabis products.

The Final Hit: New Orleans is About To Get Its First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Sales should begin a couple of months after the Pharmacy Board approves the initial round dispensaries for operation.

According to the current timeline, that means patients in New Orleans could access legal medical cannabis products as early as June.

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