Last week, Southern University chose the Lafayette shell company Advanced Biomedics to operate the school’s medical marijuana business. Until 2020, statute allows Southern and Louisiana State University to do so, each by itself or through proxy, producing all but inhalable cannabis products while emphasizing reduced THC levels, for “recommendation” by physicians to address a variety of ailments.
LSU previously chose GB Sciences, based in Nevada, as its operator. Given federal laws’ prohibition on growing the cannabis sativa plant, although state law said only the two Baton Rouge-based universities could grow the crop, each has farmed out the task over concerns that doing it themselves might threaten receipt of federal research grants.
Both selections came with controversy. A panel recommended that SU choose another company with greater in-state ties; Advanced Biomedics has little more than a legal corporate presence in Louisiana at this point but insists it ultimately will employ Louisianans and administer the program from the state. However, its monetary terms proved as good or better than others’, guaranteeing $6 million over the next five years.
LSU encountered criticism over its selection, which guarantees only $3.4 million over five years but this could go higher if 10 percent of gross sales exceed that amount, plus LSU reaps $500,000 annually for research. A shaky financial situation and its status as the only entirely out-of-state firm spawned a campaign by losing bidders to have the System reconsider that choice.
The law itself proponents of medical marijuana use claimed would not have much consequence. Despite that its use had no verifiable significant benefits for most of the maladies on the authorized list, they argued it didn’t cover enough medical conditions. They also have doubts about whether the law can protect producers and users from adverse federal government legal actions.
From the other end of the spectrum, those skeptical about preventing medical marijuana from becoming the proverbial camel’s nose sticking into the tent of widespread legalization, they fear that the provisions allow too much leeway for recreational use. To validate this, simply do a web search on techniques to take the various kinds of non-inhalant marijuana and convert these into inhalable products, and a cornucopia of information gushes forth. Undoubtedly, the rather broad array of maladies that qualify one to receive a “recommendation” necessary for a dispensary will allow those with little or no genuine medical need to get ahold of a THC-laden product that they can manipulate to induce more purified THC into their bodies, or, for those with real need to pass along a portion to their buddies, who will use it to get high.
It will take several more months before establishment of distributors and in that time policy-makers should tweak the relevant law. They should restrict eligible users only to the only two disorders where science conclusively has demonstrated net positive benefits from medical marijuana: spasticity and chronic pain (although the latter often lies mainly in the eyes of the beholder, but at this point is moot as the law doesn’t cover that).
Further, they should outlaw use of THC-based compounds and instead switch attention to CBD oils, which don’t have psychotropic effects yet in a number of studies show positive impacts on individuals with various problems. The ban on inhalation should remain.
Without these changes, the loopholes remain, and Louisiana will not avoid the personal and social ills that come about through easing up on marijuana use. That would give “laissez le bon temps rouler” a whole new meaning.