LA: Gentilly Medical Marijuana Pharmacy Will Be Secure, Owner Says

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A strip mall in Gentilly will house one of the state’s first medical marijuana pharmacies, and owner Ruston Henry said he has a “four-prong” security plan for the New Orleans dispensary.

“This facility will be monitored 24 hours a day,” Henry told the state Pharmacy Board during his successful pitch Tuesday (April 17) for one of the state’s nine regional permits. “There will be motion detectors and video surveillance.”

Henry, a pharmacist who owns two locations of H&W Drug store, Inc., plans to open his third pharmacy at 4718 Paris Ave. in a leased space surrounded by other retail shops, including a grocery store and several fast food restaurants.

Henry said he doesn’t have an opening date yet. However, the board’s policy requires that marijuana pharmacies to begin operating within 310 days of being awarded a permit. That would mean opening by February 2019 at the latest.

“Everything we do will go hand-in-hand with approval of the board,” Henry said. “This is a partnership between the facility and the board.”

Henry, who said he has been a pharmacist for more than 30 years, said he wants the facility to be a model for the state.

“We want to be, not one of nine, we want to be the top, prototypical one in the whole state,” Henry said.

Under state law the Paris Avenue pharmacy can only be used to dispense medical marijuana.

Louisiana law prohibits marijuana from being sold in any form that can be smoked. The forms sold at state-permitted pharmacies will include pills, topical creams and oils and can only be dispensed to patients with a doctor’s recommendation form.

The state-permitted pharmacies will dispense marijuana that will be produced and manufactured in various forms by vendors hired by Southern University and Louisiana State University, the only agricultural centers allowed by state law to grow the medicinal-grade marijuana.

The marijuana dispensary would be located down the street from the 3rd District New Orleans Police Department, which uses a corner lot at the mall to park marked units.

Henry said the location was “by far the best site” of any of the four applicants who were competing for the permit for Region 1, which includes Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Bernard parishes.

He told the board he has a four-prong security approach that included the “visible,” such as the locks and doors, an armed security guard, alarm and video surveillance system and a digital security program to protect data and track products.

“We will have armed security guards while we are open,” Henry said.

Access to the pharmacy will be limited and will require badge-based clearance for employees, while customers would have to request entrance, he said.

State law authorized the 17-member Pharmacy Board to oversee the permit process. The board has said it will issue operating permits to one pharmacy in each of the state’s nine designated health care regions. A 10th permit will be issued as needed.

The board awarded permits to dispense medical marijuana in Regions 1-4 on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the board was expected to award permits for companies to operate in Regions 5, 6,7, 8 and 9.