Local business people, doctors and pharmacists from throughout the state, many of whom have partnered with out-of-state marijuana industry consultants and experts, have lined up to get 10 exclusive medical marijuana pharmacy permits to be issued by the state’s pharmacy board.
Pharmacies throughout Louisiana could open in the coming months if the state Board of Pharmacy hands out licenses at its upcoming March meeting, according to The Advocate.
A selection committee in January interviewed the applicants for each of the nine regions that will have a medical marijuana pharmacy, and ranked the applicants in all but two of those regions. The board is slated to hand out nine permits — one for each of the designated regions throughout Louisiana — plus a 10th later in a high-demand area.
In the Capitol Region, which includes East Baton Rouge and several surrounding parishes, Capitol Wellness Solutions leads the pack of applicants. The firm is primarily owned by Randy Mire, the CEO of Gem Drugs, which has locations in Gramercy and Reserve. T.J. Woodard, owner of the downtown Baton Rouge pharmacy Prescriptions on the Geaux, is a partner and would be the pharmacist-in-charge.
Carl Dabadie, the former head of the Baton Rouge Police Department, is listed as the head of security for Capitol Wellness, according to records provided by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy.
Capitol Wellness Solutions has a lease on a 4,300-square-foot space in the Baton Rouge Health District, at 7941 Picardy Ave, for the medical marijuana pharmacy.
Acadiana Therapeutic Remedies is the first-place finisher in the Acadiana region, which includes Lafayette, Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, St. Landry, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes.
Acadiana Therapeutic has partnered with people with backgrounds in medical marijuana, including Helen Cobb, who ran dispensaries in California, and Jacob Irving, founder of LSU Law’s Cannabis Law Society. The firm has a lease on a space in a strip mall at 1015 Kaliste Saloom Road, which is centrally located to the several of the city’s medical centers.
A host of high-profile elected officials have vouched for the group of physicians behind the company. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, and former Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom wrote letters in support of Dr. Kevin Duplechain, one of the firm’s principals. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, wrote a letter in support of co-owner Dr. Matt Mitchell.
The leading candidate for the New Orleans area is Rx Greenhouse, whose majority owner and CEO, Dr. Sajal Roy, currently owns and operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Maryland. If approved by the Board of Pharmacy, Roy hopes to open Rx Greenhouse at 3131 N I 10 Service Road E, Suite 100, Metairie, in a four-story office building currently home to a specialty pharmacy operated by Roy, among other businesses.
“If everything goes well, we hope to have finalized blueprints to submit to Jefferson Parish in two to three weeks,” he said.
David Brown, a longtime medical marijuana advocate in Louisiana, is part of the first-place-finisher north shore group, Willow Pharmacy, which plans to turn the existing pharmacy in Madisonville into a medical marijuana dispensary if approved. Brown, who helped pass the state’s medical marijuana law, co-owns the firm with a local pharmacist and a pharmacy owner.
Louisiana passed laws in 2015 and 2016 authorizing a highly-regulated medical marijuana program. Under the law, the LSU and Southern University agricultural centers are partnering with private firms to grow the plant, and the licensed pharmacies will dispense the drug in non-smokable forms.
The Board of Pharmacy is expected to receive more information from the applicants selected by the committee at two meetings later this month, and could end up awarding licenses then.
“Given the amount of information in some of the applications, it is possible the members may opt to recess in order to have time to review that information and then reconvene at a later date to deliberate and make their selection,” Broussard said.
The board has not yet issued any licenses.
In the Lake Charles region, a group of pharmacists and doctors hope to open Calcasieu Therapeutics at a vacant office site at 4957 Big Lake Road.
A firm in the Teche region has plans for a pharmacy called Bayou Therapeutics at 106 LSTA CT in Schriever. The first-place finisher there is composed of two local pharmacists, a local CPA and a consultant who ran a dispensary in New Jersey.
In northwest Louisiana, two businessmen, William Windham and Gregory Morrison, are behind the top-ranked firm, and have plans for a dispensary called NorLa Pharm at 2700 E 70th St. in Shreveport. A marijuana industry expert from New Mexico is listed as the security manager and industry consultant for the pair.
In Alexandria and Monroe, the selection committee recommended a second round of applications, according to Malcolm Broussard, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, delaying the selection of firms for those areas.