Louisiana's medical marijuana permit competition entering final round

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The interest in Louisiana's medical marijuana is growing, but companies vying for the right to sell it need to wait a little bit longer before they get the go ahead from the state.

Tuesday, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy postponed its decision on who will be permitted to sell medical marijuana until the middle of April.

Only one company in each of the nine regions will get a permit. Each application included an in-depth look into operator's know how, their facility and their security measures.

Five businesses from the Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard region applied, according to our partners at NOLA.com | The Times Picayune.

"It's your operations. How you are going to dispense the medical marijuana? What safeguards do you have in place?," RX Greenhouse's Dr. Sajal Roy said. "Then, it really starts to get into clinical. How are you going to follow up and track your patients? How do you make sure there's no diversion? How do you update providers and patients?"

An application review committee ranked each of the region's potential dispensaries. RX Greenhouse ranked number one in the Metropolitan region.

Sajal said his company is best suited for the job because it is already operating a dispensary in Maryland.

"We have the operational knowledge and know the pitfalls. We are excited to get started. We know we will be able to open on time without delay," Roy said.

Local pharmacist Ruston Henry and his H&W Drug Store are also in the running for a dispensary permit in the region.

"You've got to submit plans for your security...accessibility, procedural, computer systems and staffing," Henry said explaining the application process.

He believes his decades of serving the New Orleans community is why his Gentilly dispensary should be chosen.

"It's an industry that is a win-win. Win one is that you can help patients because if you're not about helping patients, I'm not interested in it. But the second thing is it can potentially can be a lucrative business. We are willing to take the risk on that, and that's why we submitted our proposal in for it," Henry said.

"If there is something that can help these patients other than the traditional pain medication, I think it's great," pharmacist Al Spitalli said.

Spitalli is not jockeying for a dispensary, but he said while there is a profit to be made, it is not as lucrative as recreational marijuana because in medical marijuana product cost can be high and the number of certified customers is low.

"The recreational marijuana stores actually do more per square foot than Apple stores. (Recreational stores) approach $5000 per square foot, but the picture changes when you get into the medical marijuana because they compare them to Whole Foods. They're doing about $1000 per square foot," Spitalli said. "If (dispensaries) see roughly 50 sales a day, they could see a profit of $120,000-$180,000 net after expenses, salaries, rent and so forth and so on."

Dr. Roy said his Maryland dispensary business has yet to make a profit.

Medical marijuana is being touted as an alternative to addictive pain killers and could possibly help curb the country's opioid crisis.

When dispensaries are in operation in Louisiana, they can only sell marijuana creams, oils and pills...not marijuana in flower or bud form.

Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.