Lacking Test Labs, Louisiana Delays Medical Marijuana Sales

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — One of two licensed cannabis growers in Louisiana said patients might have to wait two months later than hoped for medical marijuana products to be available at dispensaries across the state.

John Davis, GB Sciences Louisiana president, which was hired by Louisiana State University as a sanctioned grower, told news outlets it’s anticipated that products won’t be available until January 2019, with the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) having to take on product testing following an unsuccessful effort to find an independent lab to do it.

Regulatory hurdles have slowed the process, making it unclear when medical cannabis will actually be commercially available in Louisiana.

Louisiana patients might have to wait until January 2019, according to the latest timetable provided by GB Sciences Louisiana.

Davis said the company began extracting the compounds from its first harvest on Oct. 24, 2018, and it will likely take about a week before it can be sent to the LDAF for testing.

Department spokesperson Veronica Mosgrove said regulators will test for pesticides, contaminants, and heavy metals, and it will take roughly six weeks to get results back to GB Sciences. She said the department will still receive proposals due Oct. 25, 2018, to identify an in-state independent testing facility.

An independent testing site has been part of the LDAF’s rule since it took over as regulator of the medical cannabis program in 2016. Mosgrove explained that the agency tried to identify a lab that met its criteria in the state to conduct all of the testing in one lab. Concerned that this could create a delay, the LDAF invested about $800,000 in setting up its own testing facility, she said.

“After many searches, the commissioner did not want to hold up the testing of the product, so he decided to expand our lab capabilities,” Mosgrove said. “AgChem, LDAF’s lab, had most of the equipment because they are already testing pesticides, feed, fertilizer, water, soil, etc.”

She explained that they are continuing with the request for proposals despite having expanded testing capabilities to identify any labs interested in helping with the anticipated heavy load due to the increase in the number of patients who now qualify for medical cannabis in Louisiana.

“The department is the regulator and if we detect a problem, a third lab can verify our results,” she said. “If a third lab is identified through the request for proposals, LDAF’s lab can spot check that third-party lab for quality assurance.”

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