Shreveport Businessmen May Soon Control North Louisiana Medical Marijuana Market

Photo Credit: Ricardo Arduengo

Two businessmen with ties to the Shreveport area may soon have control of the medical marijuana market in north Louisiana.

William “Bill” Windham and Gregory Morrison have jointly filed applications to become approved medical marijuana “pharmacies” through their companies NorLa Pharmacy of Shreveport and Delta MedMar of West Monroe.

The Shreveport company has been ranked No. 1 among applicants for northwest Louisiana by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy’s application review committee, according to documents provided by the board’s attorney, Carlos Finalet.

And the second-ranked applicant in the northwest region said in an interview that state officials have recommended to him that he withdraw his application, indicating that Windham and Morrison’s NorLa Pharmacy will likely be granted the license in northwest Louisiana when the board meets later this month.

As yet, the committee has provided no rankings of applications for northeast Louisiana. The review committee has recommended that more applications be sought for the region.

Applications were filed under a new state process intended to provide guidelines to distribute medical marijuana across the state.

NorLa Pharmacy’s proposed Shreveport medical marijuana dispensary would be at 2700 East 70th St., according to the application. The applicants have told state officials their pharmacy could be operational six to seven months after their license is approved.

Windham declined to be interviewed for this story. He is a Louisiana native with experience in construction, real estate management, health care, timber and agriculture and horse racing and casinos.

Morrison is a Louisiana Tech grad with experience in the transportation and logistics industry. He could not be reached for comment.

The two men have enlisted a licensed, non-profit cannabis producer from New Mexico to help steer both of their proposed ventures for north Louisiana.

The state board is scheduled to meet March 27-28 to consider the review committee’s recommendations. The board could decide then or take the applications under advisement, Finalet said.

The board doesn’t have the anticipated start dates for all applicants. But soon, it appears, Windham and Morrison could hold two of Louisiana’s nine marijuana permits.

Louisiana medical marijuana pharmacy laws

Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana since the 1970s. But in 2015 and 2016, legislators enacted Acts 261 and 96 respectively to require the creation of medical marijuana guidelines. The Board of Pharmacy finalized the guidelines for the nontransferable specialty license required to dispense marijuana for therapeutic purposes in August 2017.

“(The laws) were aimed at developing a total process,” said state Sen. Fred Mills, R- Parks, Louisiana, who led the push to enact the laws. “It was just legalized but never addressed. …In the ’90s, I was director of the Board of Pharmacy and people would call me up and say ‘Okay, I see it’s legal, how do I get it?’ There was no mechanism to get it.”

Those with specified conditions are eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, according to the Louisiana Department of Health, citing guidelines from the independent Board of Medical Examiners and the state pharmacy board.

The conditions: cancer; positive status for HIV, AIDS, cachexia or wasting syndrome; seizure disorders; epilepsy; Crohn’s disease; muscular dystrophy; and multiple sclerosis.

Under the new laws, marijuana is to be bought, stored and sold at licensed businesses called pharmacies, with one pharmacy permitted in each of nine regions. A tenth pharmacy may be granted if the pharmacy board is convinced one region needs two licenses.

Region 7 encompasses Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine and Webster parishes.

Region 8 comprises Caldwell, East Carroll, Franklin, Jackson, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, Tensas, Union and West Carroll parishes.

The pharmacies must get their marijuana from producers licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF). Currently, agricultural centers at LSU and Southern University are the only approved producers in the state.

The marijuana also must be tested for microbial and fungal limits, heavy metals, potency and other benchmarks.

The pharmacies may sell marijuana products as oils, extracts, tinctures, sprays, capsules, pills, solutions, suspensions, gelatin-based chewables, topical applications like oils and lotions, skin patches or suppositories. They may not sell it in any form for smoking.

The products can’t, among other things, encourage the recreational use of marijuana or be manufactured or sold in a manner that is “obscene or indecent.”

Producers are required to maintain complete inventory records in the state’s medical marijuana system.

Under the law, applications for pharmacy licenses are to be judged on the fitness of their management team, a pharmacy’s location and its ability to maintain the knowledge, understanding, judgment, procedures, security controls and ethics for dispensing and selling marijuana, among other criteria.

Who are Windham and Morrison?

Windham and Morrison, the two men with joint applications for marijuana pharmacies in northern Louisiana marijuana, have business backgrounds and ties to Louisiana, according to biographies they submitted with their applications to the Louisiana Pharmacy Board.

Both graduated from Louisiana Tech, but it’s unclear from the application if they met there. Windham graduated in 1979. Morrison’s application doesn’t list a graduation date.

Windham started a general contracting company, not identified in the application, after graduation to focus on light commercial and multi-family construction and construction management services for hotels and apartments. The company performed $150 million of work, according to the application. He sold the company in 2006.

Through a real-estate management company, Windam also developed, constructed, owned and/or managed over 3,000 units of multi-family housing, mostly in the southeastern United States, according to his application.

Windham’s application to operate a medical marijuana pharmacy is not his first venture into health care. He serves as a managing member of Turner-Windham, which oversees three long-term acute care hospitals in Dallas and Shreveport, according to the application.

He also developed and owned the Brentwood Health Management Company, with $100 million in annual revenue, to operate hospitals in four states, according to his application. Windham sold the company in 2004 to Psychiatric Solutions, according to the application.

Windham owns a 4,000-arch range and lodge in Chama, New Mexico, and the Downs at Albuquerque racetrack and casino and the SunRay Downs and Casino in Farmington, New Mexico, according to the application.

Morrison has more than 30 years of experience as an owner and manager in the transportation and logistics industries, according to his application.

After receiving degrees from Louisiana Tech and Baylor University, he worked for Phoenix Gas Liquids in trading and shipping natural gas liquids and similar products

Morrison also owned and managed a transport company that specialized in oilfield drilling equipment. He sold the company in 2003.

Morrison is a past executive assistant for District 5 on the Louisiana Public Service Commission. He served as president of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association and a member of Gov. Jon Bel Edwards’ transition team as transportation chairman.

In their applications, Windham and Morrison say they will rely on the expertise of Darren White as security manager and a consultant. He is CEO of PurLife, a licensed non-profit producer of medical marijuana in New Mexico.

White served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and has a law enforcement background. Then New Mexico-Gov. Gary Johnson appointed White to head the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and the New Mexico State Police in 1995. He served as sheriff of Bernalillo County, elected in 2002 and again in 2006. He was Albuquerque’s public safety director in 2009, according to the application.

Who else could get the licenses?

Others have applied for marijuana pharmacy licenses for northeast and northwest Louisiana.

Morrison and Windham are the favorites in the northwest region through NorLa Pharmacy, but two other Shreveport companies are vying for the license: Hope Pharmacy and Bayou Dispensary.

In northeast Louisiana, the only applicant in addition to Windham and Morrison’s Delta MedMar is Grace Specialty Pharmacy of West Monroe. University Health Conway/BRF withdrew its application for the northeast.

Calls to owners at Bayou and Grace were not returned before publication.

Hope Pharmacy, the second-ranked applicant in the northwest region, estimates it would be able to operate in about 10 months after approval of its application, said applicant Douglas Boudreaux.

Boudreaux has been a practicing pharmacist since 1992 and owns the Boudreaux’s Specialty Compounding Pharmacy in Shreveport. He’s a founding member and past president of the Northwest Louisiana Interfaith Pharmacy in Shreveport. He also owns Boudreaux’s New Drug Store in Lake Charles.

Boudreaux’s pharmacies have been affiliated with hospice care for over 20 years. The pharmacies have active contracts with 10 separate hospices in northwest Louisiana with about 200 patients.

The pharmacy’s proposed location would be one mile from the Willis-Knighton Medical Center and Cancer treatment center. The address: 1410 Kings Highway.

“We have an infrastructure in place. We have five pharmacists and 10 technicians readily available to go to that pharmacy and work,” Boudreaux said. “We’re the only accredited compounding pharmacy north of I-10.

“The board approved compounding for medical marijuana,” he said. “I thought it would be pretty important for an accredited compounding pharmacy to apply.”

The board didn’t give Boudreaux any feedback on why his application was ranked second, but he said the full board will likely grant the northwest region license during its meeting later this month.

“They’ve asked me to appear,” Boudreaux said. “I got a certified letter. I’m required to appear.”

It is likely that NorLa will get the license.

“The board sent me a letter and told me that I should probably withdraw my name because a denial of a license will show up on the national registry and anytime I apply for license thereafter, it will be on my record,” he said.

Windham and Morrison, if they end up getting both licenses, would control the medical marijuana market in north Louisiana.

“There’s a lot of power there,” Boudreaux said.