(WVUE) - Louisiana residents awaiting access to medical marijuana will have to wait a little longer.
"You can say it's been as long as five years we've been waiting," said mother of two Katelyn Castleberry.
When Castleberry's two boys were diagnosed with autism, she went in search of a medical breakthrough. She was looking for something to help her younger son, Ramsey, better communicate his needs and her older one, Bodi, to more easily create social connections.
"I would like to see happier, healthier children not on amphetamines, benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants," Castleberry explained.
Castleberry had hoped safe treatment would come in the form of medical cannabis, but now she'll have to wait a little longer to find out.
"We are hopeful we can get it up and going in October on a small scale. As soon as we can get the standard operating procedure manual approved from agriculture and forestry, we are going to be ready to roll," said Ashley Mullens with the LSU Agriculture Center.
Medical marijuana was supposed to be available in Louisiana next month, but the manual isn't done and the production facility is still under renovation. However, the LSU Agriculture Center was set to start the first phase of production this weekend.
"It's going to look like regular medication, like anything you would get from a regular pharmacy. Nothing is raw, nothing is smokable," Mullens explained.
But Castleberry says there are still unanswered questions important to potential patients, like whether the medicine will be affordable and what dosages will be available.
"I also have concerns as to what forms it's going to be available in and how many patients are going to be able to access it," said Castleberry. "We just don't know the answers to any of these questions."
"We are still working with the pharmacies to see exactly what we are going to offer first, our first year, depending on the patients and the physicians to let us know what they want, what they need," Mullens said.
"This is a very long process that we have been dealing with and there are a lot of rules and regulations in place that we have to follow and our agency was tasked with regulating this industry and we're producing a pharmaceutical grade product that will be given to people so it's got to be done right," said Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain.
It comes as folks like Castleberry look for answers and await availability.
"We need doctors, we need product, we need information so we can plan for our patients and loved one's life. We need access," said Castleberry.
Nine pharmacies across the state will be licensed to dispense medical marijuana for a number of conditions, including PTSD and autism.