Louisiana lawmakers agree to expand medical marijuana dispensaries

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Louisiana legislators passed a bill that allows for the expansion of the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, or so-called pharmacies, from nine to 30 over time, with the option to do so resting with the existing MMJ operators.

The introduction of smokable flower this year fueled sales, the number of patients and thus the need for expansion, according to The Advocate in Baton Rouge.

The bill now goes to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who previously expressed reservations about expanding the number of locations but was involved in the negotiations on this measure, The Advocate reported.

Under House Bill 697, the state’s existing medical cannabis operators could open an additional dispensary in the same geographic region after reaching 3,500 active patients and a second satellite location once the next 3,500 patient milestone is reached.

A new MMJ operator could apply to enter the market only if an existing dispensary declined to open a second satellite location.

Louisiana currently has nine existing MMJ retail operators. The measure calls for the state Pharmacy Board to issue a 10th medical cannabis license in the New Orleans area.

House Bill 697 caps at 30 the total MMJ dispensaries operating in the state.

The legislation also transfers industry regulation to the Louisiana Department of Health from the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

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Marijuana cultivation would continue to be controlled by Louisiana State University and Southern University, both of which have contracts with private companies.

The 2022 MJBiz Factbook projects that Louisiana MMJ sales will roughly double this year to $9o million to $100 million.