Emergency rules for medical marijuana opposed by legislative panel

Emergency rules for medical marijuana opposed by legislative panel

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As state lawmakers grow frustrated with delays in getting medical marijuana on the market, a state House committee rejected emergency regulations adopted by the Louisiana Dept. of Agriculture related to the substance.

"This medicine is not FDA approved and the department is responsible for establishing these rules,” Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain told members of the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee.

Strain’s department is charged with regulating medical marijuana.

"We’re trying to get this product out as quickly as possible, okay, and in order to do that we still have to ensure that that product is safe,” said Strain.

But some legislators said it is not happening fast enough. Act 261 became law in 2015, allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana in the state.

"People need this medication. We want it out,” said Rep. Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas, to Strain.

Under state law, the AG Centers at LSU and Southern Universities are the only legal growers of marijuana plants for the medical marijuana program.

"So, everything from the research, creating the plant, all the way to where it goes to the pharmacists,” said Strain of the schools’ role.

He defended the emergency rules issued late last month.

"We believe that any rule established for the production of medical marijuana is an emergency. We do not have any room for error as it relates to the safety of the citizens of this state,” Strain stated.

The latest rules include sophisticated video surveillance at marijuana producing facilities and rules about who can visit restricted areas.

"This would allow a single inspector. Remember - we only have two full-time people in this whole program, a single inspector to watch multiple facilities from a remote location and not have to be in the facility. This was also done in the state of Illinois,” Strain told lawmakers.

But a representative of LSU took issue with some of the new rules.

"The biggest ones that we've had issue with are the 24-hour notice of visitors, whether that's a contractor coming to repair an air conditioner or water line, coming to work on a reverse osmosis filter, filtration system, whatever it may be. That is not under the definition of emergency personnel,” said Hampton Gurnewald, a vice president with the LSU Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge.

Some legislators also questioned the need for the emergency rules related to medical marijuana.

"So, you said that the ultimate goal is to get the medicine out by June 1, right?” asked Rep. Miller of Strain.

“If we can,” answered Strain.

Miller continued the line of questioning.

“So, you don't think any of these rules are hindering the process or hindering business at all?” said Miller.

Strain replied, “No, sir."

In the end, the House panel voted to reject the agriculture department’s emergency rules.

"If these are not approved, they will not hamper our ability to distribute product,” Grunewald told lawmakers.

Strain can reissue the rules through a non-emergency process that would take months.

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