Missouri Medical Cannabis Program Director Says Sales Could Launch This Fall

Medical cannabis sales could launch in Missouri as soon as this fall, according to a Missourian report.

Two cultivation facilities, one in Earth City near St. Louis and another in Perryville, were given the green light to plant their first crops last month, the news outlet reported, which means product could be ready within the next few months.

“If you do the math, 90 days from those time frames, you are looking at September and October,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the state’s medical cannabis program, told the Missourian. “That’s when I think you will be seeing quite a few dispensaries ready to sell product.”

RELATED: BeLeaf Medical Launches Missouri’s First Medical Cannabis Cultivation Operation with More to Come: The Starting Line

Fraker told the news outlet that three additional cultivators have requested inspections, and he expects more requests for final inspections and certifications in the coming months.

To date, 54,784 patients have been approved to participate in Missouri’s medical cannabis program, the Missourian reported, and the state has issued 60 cultivation, 86 processing and 192 dispensary licenses.

Read the entire article here.

Louisiana’s medical marijuana market is about to grow with ‘tens of thousands’ of plants

Nearly a year after medical marijuana went from seed to shelves at nine pharmacies in Louisiana, there is a second player in a market that’s about to get a larger pool of patients suffering from a wide-open range of medical conditions.

Southern University medical marijuana licensee Ilera Holistic Healthcare shipped out its first tinctures and topical creams to pharmacies this month, joining LSU licensee Wellcana Group, which put its first tinctures on shelves last August.

Within two weeks of Wellcana hitting the retail market last year, nearly 5,000 patients entered the program, with 1,500 receiving the drug at prices between $80 and $200 to treat only about a dozen medical conditions.

Ilera is adding competition to a market in which the pharmacies have struggled with high wholesale prices and slim profit margins, while patients have complained about an unaffordable therapy that’s held back its use.

Wellcana has dropped its prices, though undisclosed for competitive reasons, twice now in the past several months to the level of a much more mature cannabis market, and its profit margin for now is “razor thin,” officials have said. Some pharmacies scattered across the state’s metro areas also discounted their prices earlier this year, realizing that many patients weren’t returning because of the cost.

The cost is driven up in part by federal limitations on tax write-offs common among retailers but unavailable to the pharmacies because marijuana is deemed illegal by the federal government. For that same reason, insurance companies typically do not cover medical marijuana costs for patients.

“There are a lot of our patients who have tried the medicine, but the reason they weren’t continuing was the price…,”  H&W Dispensary owner Henry Ruston said after dropping prices earlier this year. “We can’t have cancer patients not get this because they can’t afford the medication.”

Medical marijuana tinctures at H&W Dispensary were priced between $90 and $200, depending on the strength, and were dropped to $65 per tincture sold in 30-milliliter bottles. Now products under $100 are expected to become the norm, Ruston said.

Ruston has now purchased some of Ilera’s THC products, in addition to Wellcana’s.

“The more products which come on board, the cheaper the cost becomes and the easier access for patients,” Ruston said. “One of the biggest challenges we had was changing the stigma of marijuana. We had a lot of patients in pain and they were thinking of marijuana as smoking up and stuff, but this is something you just put under your tongue.”

In addition to Ilera adding competition to Wellcana, state legislators have given the two companies and the nine state-licensed pharmacies a much broader patient base. The drug could only be used to treat cancer, AIDS, Cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, PTSD, Parkinson’s, certain people with autism spectrum disorder and intractable pain.

About one-quarter of patients had never tried medical marijuana before, and about 15% are replacing opiates with cannabis, a state survey shows. The three most common conditions being treated are intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer.

Starting Aug. 1, doctors can recommend marijuana to patients for any condition they consider “debilitating to an individual patient and is qualified” to treat. Plus, doctors must only be in “good standing” with the Board of Medical Examiners, instead of having to obtain a special license.

The legislation “increases patient access so they can go to a doctor they know,” said John Davis, chief executive officer of Wellcana. “This takes away the barriers and narrow swim lanes that have restricted the Louisiana market,” he said.

Davis has long described the industry as sluggish and has even held back on some production by freezing mature plant buds to keep batches of tinctures fresh.

Between August and December, there were only 4,350 patients in the state’s fledgling program, and fewer than 200 participating doctors across the state.

The Marijuana Policy Project has estimated that the medical marijuana program in Louisiana could grow to upwards of 100,000 patients when mature. CommonSense NOLA, a medical marijuana advocate, has estimated the potential patient pool is more like 65,000 to 75,000 across the state — if raw cannabis flower is legalized.

While that has not happened, the state’s two medical marijuana producers are converting plants they grow into a widening variety of products — and both are planning bigger operations that also include hemp-derived CBD products.

While Wellcana has promoted different strengths of THC tinctures from marijuana in a variety of flavors to treat all conditions, Ilera Holistic’s strategy is to promote specific formulations for some disorders such as autism or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Wellcana produced 600 pounds of dry cannabis flower in 2019. That dry flower was extracted and mixed with oil to produce 18,959 tincture bottles — about 16,524 of which were sold at wholesale prices to the pharmacies.

Davis has said Wellcana’s strategy since the program began has been to meet customer demand for tinctures and continue developing other methods such as edible chews, under the tongue strips, metered dose inhalers and topical creams. The company also quietly rolled out some hemp-derived CBD products in recent months, which are sold over-the-counter at the medical marijuana pharmacies.

Wellcana expects to roll out new medical marijuana products in August, such as the oral strips, and a new concentrate where patients can add extract to foods, which is more similar to what customers would do with raw flower.

“Nobody is going to say our products are unaffordable,” Davis said.

Wellcana’s Baton Rouge facility has the capacity to grow hundreds of plants, and it’s been planning an additional larger plant-growing operation that has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ilera’s temporary facility in Baton Rouge had about 3,789 plants to harvest, according to state records, and it has nearly completed a new building with a capacity for tens of thousands of plants. Ilera Holistic Healthcare has promised very affordable prices and is banking that a higher-volume operation can sustain such a decision.

“I was concerned about (high prices) as well,” said Chanda Macais, CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare. ”Through our experiences in other markets, we were able to make sure our plant technology has been superior because that’s typically the barrier being able to supply large patient databases. We wanted to make sure we had supply available to everyone.”

Ilera has plans to build and operate an outdoor greenhouse, where medical marijuana will be grown using sunlight rather than grow lamps in a facility without windows.

Ilera Holistic also expects to buy hemp from local farmers and has been selling hemp-derived CBD products since January.

Wellcana’s plans for a larger marijuana-growing facility are at an undisclosed location, likely close to Lafayette, that  would be a center for collecting and processing hemp grown by area farmers. That will support production of CDB, cannabidiol, products, which the company has been developing from hemp. Hemp-derived CBD oils do not contain significant amounts of THC and can be sold legally by retailers.

The stage was set last year by federal and state government for growing hemp, a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant and nonpsychoactive cousin to marijuana, in Louisiana.

Read the entire article here.

Louisiana medical marijuana market expected to grow after program changes, but headwinds remain

Louisiana’s medical marijuana market is poised to grow in the wake of new legislation that allows more physicians to authorize the drug for added medical conditions.

But the state’s nascent regulated cannabis sector still faces significant challenges to its business outlook, including:

  • Low patient numbers to date.
  • A limited number of retail outlets, limiting access by geography.
  • Comparatively high prices for available product forms.
  • Constraints on allowable forms of MMJ that prevent the sale of cannabis flower in plant form.

Still, Louisiana medical cannabis retailers and licensed growers told Marijuana Business Daily they’re optimistic the program will improve as it matures, attracting more patients by lowering prices, increasing access and eventually permitting cannabis flower.

Increase in patient numbers expected

Louisiana’s medical marijuana program launched in August 2019, and the Marijuana Business Factbook estimated MMJ sales in the market last year totaled only $1 million-$1.5 million.

For 2020, the Factbook estimates sales between $15 million and $20 million.

Louisiana patients currently need a doctor’s recommendation to buy MMJ products from dispensaries called medical marijuana pharmacies.

But MMJ can be used only for specific medical conditions – and it can be recommended only by physicians explicitly authorized to do so by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners.

That will change when Louisiana House Bill 819, signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards on June 15, takes effect in August.

The bill permits any physician in good standing with the board of medical examiners to recommend MMJ for any condition that a doctor considers debilitating to the specific patient.

“This essentially allows every doctor to practice medicine and participate in the program, and it allows every patient to have access to talking with their doctor about whether (medical marijuana) is appropriate for them,” said John Davis, CEO of Louisiana cannabis producer Wellcana.

For now, patient numbers remain low.

Only nine medical marijuana pharmacies are licensed to serve Louisiana’s population of around 4.7 million that’s scattered across nine large regions.

The most recent available figures from the state show those pharmacies served relatively few customers at the outset: Just 4,350 total patients accessed medical marijuana between the program’s launch in August 2019 and the end of that year.

Retailers constrained by regional demographics, high prices

Louisiana’s low patient count suggests “the lion’s share of cannabis medicine in Louisiana is being supplied by the black market,” said David Brown, owner of Willow Pharmacy in Madisonville and former president of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana.

Brown said his pharmacy serves the highest number of patients in Louisiana, which he attributes in part to the relative affluence of his region in the southeastern sector of the state, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

In other regions with less wealth and fewer physicians recommending medical cannabis, he added, a pharmacy’s business outlook might be less rosy – in the state’s northeast region, he pointed out, the licensed medical marijuana pharmacy is open ony two days a week.

The sheer size of the regions served by each pharmacy also creates a barrier to success, said Kevin Caldwell, co-president of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana.

“There are many cases, specifically up in northern Louisiana, where a patient would have to take on the undue burden of really traveling a long distance to get to the dispensary,” he said.

Joe Williams, CEO of The Medicine Cabinet Pharmacy in the central Louisiana city of Alexandria, hopes the anticipated increase in doctor recommendations “opens up a whole new market for us, with access – but we also know, obviously, that prices are too high.”

Williams’ pharmacy averages about 12 transactions per day for regulated products containing THC.

He said the business is currently breaking even.

“It’s still very disappointing, don’t get me wrong, but I do feel some momentum, and I’ll tell you what’s really been good is (over-the-counter) CBD sales,” Williams said.

“Why? It’s about a third of the price, but more importantly, you don’t have to go through the hassle of going to a doctor … We can’t keep it (in stock) – we’re making $12,000 to $15,000 in profit every month on CBD.”

Limited number of producers

Two state universities hold licenses to produce medical marijuana in Louisiana. Both have contracted operations to private companies.

Wellcana, partnered with Louisiana State University, is the only producer currently selling THC-containing products to medical marijuana pharmacies.

CEO John Davis acknowledged wholesale prices for Wellcana’s tinctures have been high but said his company’s ability to lower prices is constrained by its contract with the university.

Under that agreement, Wellcana’s wholesale prices are based on the company’s cost of goods sold, Davis said.

With low patient numbers limiting the number of completed sales in that equation, he explained, Wellcana’s cost of goods sold is higher than it would be in a mature market.

“We have not sold enough products to remotely get into the black,” Davis added.

“We’re working in the red, and this change in the law that would allow for greater patient access and greater physician participation, we’re anticipating that that is going to allow us to provide an even more affordable product, and array of products, and allow us and (LSU) to hopefully move from the red to the black.”

In fact, Davis told Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate this week that Wellcana is cutting its wholesale prices.

Louisiana’s other cannabis producer, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, is partnered with Southern University.

Ilera currently sells a hemp-derived, over-the-counter CBD product to client pharmacies, but CEO Chanda Macias said the company’s upcoming THC line will be focused on affordability.

The flower question

Wellcana plans to introduce new marijuana product forms, including topicals and buccal strips, later this year.

But Louisiana’s ongoing ban on dried cannabis flower means the market might be failing to capture some potential clients.

A bill proposed this year would have removed the restrictions on allowable forms of medical marijuana to permit flower, but the measure didn’t make it through the legislative session.

“Until we get flower in the state of Louisiana for the patients, then we’re just nibbling around the edges at reform,” Willow Pharmacy’s Brown said.

Ilera’s Macias said she plans to keep lobbying for removal of the flower restriction.

“The forms that we need to expand, to be comparable or, even at this point, surpass, any medical marijuana program in the nation would be vaporizables … and a flower market,” she said.

Wellcana’s Davis said any legislative change permitting cannabis flower would depend on “continued education of those governmental stakeholders,” including law-enforcement groups and regulators.

“But it’s going to take time, because there has been a very effective campaign to thoroughly demonize and stigmatize medical cannabis and cannabis in general,” he said.

Read the entire article here.

Louisiana Senate And House Both Approve Significant Medical Marijuana Expansion

The Louisiana Senate approved a bill to significantly expand the state’s medical marijuana program on Wednesday, and a committee advanced separate legislation on banking access for cannabis businesses.

The expansion proposal, which the House of Representatives approved last week, would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee advanced the proposal last week and now the full chamber has approved it in a 28-6 vote. Before the bill heads to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for signature or veto, the House will have to sign off on an amendment made by the Senate to require dispensaries to record medical marijuana purchases in the state prescription monitoring program database.

As originally drafted, the bill> sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley (R) would have simply added traumatic brain injuries and concussions to the list of conditions that qualify a patient for a marijuana recommendation. But it was amended in a House committee to add several other conditions as well as language stipulating that cannabis can be recommended for any condition that a physician “considers debilitating to an individual patient.”

Under current law there are only 14 conditions that qualify patients for marijuana.

“House Bill 819 is the new standard for medical marijuana programs. The bill allows any doctor who is licensed by and in good standing with the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners to make medical marijuana recommendations for their patients,” Bagley told Marijuana Moment. “The bill also ends the Legislature’s task of picking medical winners and losers each session, and instead allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any condition that a physician, in his medical opinion, considers debilitating to an individual patient.”

Bagley also introduced a House-passed bill to provide for cannabis deliveries to patients, but he voluntarily withdrew it from Senate committee consideration last week and told Marijuana Moment it’s because he felt the medical marijuana expansion legislation would already allow cannabis products to be delivered to patients like other traditional pharmaceuticals.

The delivery bill would have required a government regulatory body to develop “procedures and regulations relative to delivery of dispensed marijuana to patients by designated employees or agents of the pharmacy.”

It’s not clear if regulators will agree with Bagley’s interpretation, as doctors are still prohibited from “prescribing” cannabis and marijuana products are not dispensed through traditional pharmacies. That said, they recently released a memo authorizing dispensaries to temporarily deliver cannabis to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s possible officials will be amendable to extending that policy on a permanent basis.

State lawmakers also advanced several other pieces of cannabis reform legislation last week.

A bill introduced by Rep. Edmond Jordan (D) to protect banks and credit unions that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by state regulators cleared the full House in a 74-20 vote.

That measure was approved by Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs on Wednesday, setting it up for floor action in the chamber.

Also last week, the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee unanimously approved a resolution to establish “a task force to study and make recommendations relative to the cannabis industry projected workforce demands.”

Text of the legislation states that “there is a need to study the workforce demands and the skills necessary to supply the cannabis industry with a capable and compete workforce, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners.”

Legislators have until the end of the legislative session on June 1 to get any of the measures to the governor’s desk.

Read the full article here.

Medical cannabis improvements on the move — act now!

While many state legislatures have adjourned due to the coronavirus, the Louisiana State Legislature is back in action — with social distancing precautions — and is considering a series of bills to expand the state’s medical cannabis program.

On Wednesday, the House Health and Welfare Committee unanimously advanced bills sponsored by Rep. Larry Bagley (R) that would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis for any debilitating condition (HB 819) and allow regulated home delivery permanently (HB 792). Next Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to consider several other reforms, including removing the prohibition on raw cannabis (Rep. Ted James’ HB 385).

Louisiana is one of only two medical cannabis states that continue to ban cannabis in its natural, plant form. Because extracts are far more expensive to produce, this drives up costs and results in a program that is out of reach to most of the state’s residents.

Let your lawmakers know these bills will improve the lives of suffering Louisianans.

Never doubt the impact constituent feedback can have on medical cannabis policy. The two bills that advanced out of committee are sponsored by a lawmaker who evolved from an opponent to a champion after hearing from constituents.

Rep. Bagley told Marijuana Moment he’d voted against previous medical cannabis bills. “But now, constituents in my area, they come to me and they ask me for help because they’re having pain, they can’t find things to cure the pain. …Now their personal physician can write them a script for [cannabis] and they can get it. Who knows you better than your personal physician? I thought it made perfect sense,” said Bagley.

After you write your lawmakers, please spread the word to other compassionate Louisianans, so that they, too, can raise their voices.

Israel Researchers Believe CBD Could Play Crucial Role In COVID-19 Treatment

Israeli scientists have launched clinical trials into whether cannabis can play an effective role in stopping or slowing the coronavirus. Though lung health experts have warned smoking marijuana could exacerbate COVID-19 and its spread, Israeli scientists will study cannabidiol (CBD) alongside existing treatment options as a possible solution.

Last week, InnoCan Pharma announced a collaboration with Tel Aviv University to instill CBD medicine through exosomes — or the small cell structures created when stem cells multiply. The unconventional method will utilize the exosomes as “homing missiles,” as they can uniquely target cell organs damaged by COVID-19. Researchers then believe CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties will repair the damaged cells through a synergistic effect.

As COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, scientists will have patients receive CBD-enriched exosomes through an inhalation device. Previous studies have shown CBD can help regulate the body’s immune system and reduce inflammation throughout the body.

A second clinical trial will occur over the coming weeks and includes 10 Covid-19 patients currently undergoing treatment in Israel’s Rabin Medical Center. Doctors will combine traditional steroids and CBD, with the belief CBD will enhance the therapeutic potential of the steroids. The trial, conducted by Stero Biotechs in collaboration with Mor Research Application, already has plans to expand treatment to 40 additional patients should it prove successful.

“We estimate that our CBD-based treatment can enhance the current treatment of those patients who are in life-threatening conditions,” Stero Biotechs founder and CEO David Bassa said in a statement. “Hospitalized COVID-19 patients are mostly being treated with steroids and our study is planned to demonstrate the benefit of a combined solution with Steroid treatments. We are hopeful that this study will lead to faster benefit for the growing number of COVID-19 patients in Israel and around the world.”

A third study, launched by Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center, will investigate whether CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties could lower respiratory symptoms experienced in moderate COVID-19 patients.

Canadian researchers have also announced intentions to study what role cannabis can play in slowing COVID-19. They also believe marijuana’s anti-inflammatory properties could provide a crucial role in potential treatment.

Read the full article here.

States that have allowed marijuana businesses to remain open during coronavirus pandemic stay-at-home orders

Original Article By John Schroyer at: Marijuana Business Daily

Most state governments around the nation have deemed medical marijuana companies “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning the vast majority can keep doing business after residents were told to stay at home and many businesses were ordered to scale back or close their operations.

But the picture is murkier for recreational cannabis companies.

The quickly spreading coronavirus – and the surge of states telling residents to stay home – has created confusion among cannabis companies over whether officials would require them to cease operations, even temporarily.

Decisions handed down from various government sources

Here’s where each state – and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – with some form of statewide, districtwide or territorywide stay-at-home order stands as of the morning of April 2:

Alaska: Cannabis companies are not specifically addressed by the governor’s stay-at-home order or in a list of “essential” businesses issued by the state. But a spokesperson for the state’s Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office confirmed that cannabis businesses are considered essential and can remain open as long as they are able to comply with strict social-distancing requirements, such as not allowing more than 10 people – including employees – inside a retail establishment at one time.

Arizona: Although neither the governor’s stay-at-home order nor a supporting document listing “essential” businesses include any mention of cannabis, multiple industry sources told Marijuana Business Daily that dispensaries are still operational and believe the MMJ retailers are included in the state’s definition of “essential” as part of the health-care sector.

California: Every state-licensed marijuana company is allowed to continue operating, according to state guidance and statements from regulators.

Colorado: Both medical and recreational marijuana retailers are allowed to continue operations, under an executive order issued by the governor last week before he released a statewide stay-at-home order on March 25. However, recreational cannabis shops are limited to curbside pickup while medical dispensaries can stay fully open.

Connecticut: Medical marijuana dispensaries and producers are classified as part of the state’s health-care sector and are exempt from closures, according to state guidance.

Delaware: All medical marijuana dispensaries are exempt from closure during the statewide stay-at-home order issued by the governor, the state’s joint information center confirmed to MJBizDaily via email.

Florida: The governor issued a stay-at-home order on April 1, and although the order doesn’t mention marijuana, the state’s surgeon general had previously provided guidance to the industry that medical cannabis companies qualify as an “essential” part of Florida’s health-care sector.

Hawaii: The governor’s stay-at-home order designates licensed MMJ dispensaries and cultivation centers as “essential.”

Illinois: All state-licensed cannabis growers and retailers are “essential” according to the governor’s stay-at-home order.

Louisiana: The medical marijuana supply chain is exempt from closure under the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order, state officials confirmed to MJBizDaily via email.

Maine: The governor issued a stay-at-home order on March 31. Regulators classified Maine’s MMJ dispensaries and caregivers among the state’s “medical facilities” in a memo shared with the industry on March 24, meaning they can continue to serve patients. The state’s recreational cannabis market has not yet launched.

Maryland: Although the governor’s stay-at-home order does not specifically mention the cannabis industry, the state had previously issued guidance classifying medical marijuana businesses as “essential.”

Massachusetts: The governor has classified “licensed medical marijuana retailers” as essential but not recreational cannabis businesses, which were required to close by March 23.

Michigan: Although the governor’s stay-at-home order doesn’t mention marijuana or cannabis directly, the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs stipulated in a news release on Monday that all licensed medical and recreational marijuana businesses can remain operational. Retailers, however, are limited to “curbside service or delivery,” meaning storefronts will not be open to the public.

Minnesota: The market’s two medical marijuana companies are exempt from statewide closures under the governor’s recent statewide stay-at-home order, according to cannabis operator Vireo Health.

Montana: The governor’s stay-at-home order classifies medical marijuana businesses as “essential,” so all state-licensed businesses can continue operations.

Nevada: The governor issued a stay-at-home order on April 1 but, before that, had already ordered all “nonessential” businesses to close. In a March 20 order, however, the governor classified all state-licensed marijuana businesses as “essential,” allowing them to continue operations. Retail sales are limited to home delivery only, according to the March 20 order.

New Hampshire: No reference to marijuana or cannabis was included in the governor’s stay-at-home order or a supporting document listing “essential” businesses in New Hampshire. However, regulators told the state’s five dispensaries that they are considered “essential” and can continue operations, according to multiple industry sources.

New Jersey: All medical marijuana dispensaries were classified as “essential” by the governor’s stay-at-home order.

New Mexico: The state Department of Health issued guidance to medical marijuana businesses before the governor’s stay-at-home order, clarifying that all MMJ producers are an “essential” part of the health-care sector.

New York: In a clarification document released after the governor’s stay-at-home order, the state Department of Health said all licensed MMJ companies are classified as “essential.”

Ohio: The governor’s stay-at-home order classified all licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and growers as “essential.”

Oklahoma: All MMJ businesses were categorized as “essential” and can remain operational, the state’s Medical Marijuana Authority clarified on Twitter this week after the governor issued a statewide Safer-at-Home order for the elderly and “vulnerable populations.”

Oregon: The governor’s stay-at-home order doesn’t specifically mention cannabis or marijuana. But the state Liquor Control Commission, which oversees the industry, issued a temporary rule allowing licensed MJ retailers to provide curbside pickups for customers who submit orders online. So far, the state has not classified the industry as “essential.”

Pennsylvania: The governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1. Before that, on March 20, the state included medical marijuana companies on a list of “life-sustaining businesses” that can remain operational during the coronavirus outbreak.

Puerto Rico: The U.S. territory deemed all medical marijuana businesses as critical parts of their health-care sector and exempt from mandatory business closures.

Rhode Island: The governor’s stay-at-home order includes “compassion centers” – which is the state’s terminology for MMJ dispensaries – as “critical retail,” indicating Rhode Island’s three dispensaries can remain operational.

Vermont: The medical marijuana industry was deemed “essential,” and dispensaries – which are considered pharmacies by state regulators – will be allowed to remain open during the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order, the state’s Department of Financial Regulation confirmed.

Washington DC: The District of Columbia’s mayor, who issued a stay-at-home order on March 30, included “medical marijuana dispensaries” last week in a list of “essential” businesses that could continue operations.

Washington State: The governor’s stay-at-home order includes an appendix that identifies cannabis retailers and workers supporting the supply chain as “essential.” Additionally, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board issued an order allowing retailers to continue sales through curbside pickups. The board also clarified in a news release Tuesday that all licensed marijuana businesses can continue operations and that retailers will be allowed to sell to both medical and rec customers.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com

For more of Marijuana Business Daily’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the cannabis industry, click here.

Louisiana medical marijuana maker planning major expansions, launch of hemp-derived CBD products

Wellcana Group has big expansion plans for its LSU-licensed medical marijuana operations in Louisiana and is separately courting farmers to grow hemp to support the company’s launch soon into CBD products.

Wellcana — which already operates out of Baton Rouge and is one of only two companies approved in the state to produce medical marijuana — is scouting out land in a less-populated area between Baton Rouge and Lafayette for additional cultivation room for medical marijuana, officials said.

The company expects to build a 100,000-square-foot indoor marijuana greenhouse and storage facility that will create between 100 and 200 new full- and part-time jobs. It also would be a center for collecting hemp grown by area farmers for Wellcana’s planned push into CBD, cannabidiol, products that have grown nationally in popularity for their perceived health benefits.

At the same time, Wellcana expects to expand its Baton Rouge facility off Highland Road near Interstate 10 to primarily clone and process plants and make medical marijuana products being sold to about 5,000 patients so far through nine state-approved pharmacies through licensed-doctors’ recommendations.

Currently, Wellcana’s Baton Rouge facility can grow a limited number of marijuana plants and manufactures tinctures for patients suffering from specific ailments outlined in state law. The company also has been developing prototypes for salves, strips that dissolve on the tongue, metered inhalers and chewable medicine, which contain THC, the active ingredient in medical marijuana products. The facility also will be producing Wellcana’s hemp-based CBD products, which don’t contain THC and can be sold over the counter at all kinds of retail outlets and marketed for its own health benefits.

“We’ll roll out topicals first and then the strips, and then the edible chews. Then metered dose inhalers,” Wellcana Chief Executive Officer John Davis said of the company’s medical marijuana products.

CBD products will be rolled out in similar forms, with the exception of the inhalers, he said.

Right now, the company is tightly packed in its Baton Rouge facility, Davis said. Next month, Wellcana plans to build two more stand-alone pods at its Highland Road facility that will be used for manufacturing products after oils are extracted in another room from medical marijuana plants grown on-site.

A deal for the new off-site growing and storage facility planned between Baton Rouge and Lafayette is expected to close soon, likely with cooperation from a small town, Davis said, without elaborating on negotiations or the location.

“We’re also going to put together an industrial hemp processing center there, too,” Davis said.

That will support production of CDB products, which the company has been developing from hemp. Hemp-derived CBD oils do not contain significant amounts of THC and can be sold legally by retailers.

The stage already has been set by federal and state government for growing hemp, a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant and nonpsychoactive cousin to marijuana, in Louisiana. On Dec. 23, Louisiana’s industrial hemp plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On Dec. 27, the state’s industrial hemp program began accepting license applications to produce, transport and process industrial hemp in Louisiana.

Wellcana already has been courting farmers for a supply of hemp. Davis trekked to a meeting near Alexandria a few weeks ago to meet farmers at an informational session about hemp that was hosted by the LSU AgCenter.

Davis said the session was standing room only with more than 500 attendees.

Wellcana envisions setting up a system akin to a sugar cooperative, where farmers can buy hemp clones rather than seeds alone, stick them in their fields and return with a fully grown cash crop.

The goal is for Wellcana to source enough hemp biomass so it can supply each of its new CBD products, with the cultivation center between Baton Rouge and Lafayette growing and supplying additional medical marijuana.

“Right now, we can (supply our own biomass) because the market is so slow in ramping up,” Davis said. “We can supply this five times, but in the future when we have different delivery systems (for hemp and medical marijuana), I want to make sure that we’ve got enough biomass dedicated at each one of these lines of products.”

Wellcana has the exclusive license from LSU to grow and manufacture medical marijuana products for patients across Louisiana. Southern University holds the state’s second license and has contracted with another company for operations that are expected to start this year.

The LSU license originally was awarded to Nevada-based biotechnology company GB Sciences, which invested several million dollars into the initial cultivation and manufacturing operation in Baton Rouge through a Louisiana subsidiary. The company also has conducted research alongside LSU into cannabinoids, or the underlying compounds of the active ingredients in marijuana plants.

GB Sciences sold off its Louisiana business over the past two years to a group of Lafayette-based investors, the latest involving a $16 million deal that closed in mid-December 2019 for the half of the company Wellcana didn’t already own.

Wellcana is led by Lafayette attorney Charles Rush and Cajungrocer.com founder Charlie Hohorst III. There are more than 100 investors in Wellcana, which had raised $10 million as of February 2019, including from four former NFL players — among them a former LSU player and two former Saints players.

Read the entire article here

Less Constipation in Recreational Marijuana Users

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Recreational marijuana use is associated with decreased odds of constipation, according to findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The endogenous cannabinoid system in the gastrointestinal tract mediates various physiological bowel activities, which might thus be modulated by cannabinoid compounds from recreational cannabis use. Previous studies of the effects of recreational marijuana use on constipation and diarrhea have yielded conflicting results.

Dr. Kyle Staller of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston, and colleagues used NHANES data from 2005 through 2010 on more than 9,600 adults aged 20-59 years to examine the effect of recreational marijuana use on self-reported bowel function (based on the Bristol Stool Form Scale (BSFS) and weekly bowel-movement frequency).

They defined constipation as BSFS type 1 and type 2 or less than three bowel movements per week. Diarrhea was defined as BSFS type 6 and type 7 or more than 21 bowel movements per week.

The frequency of constipation (defined by BSFS criteria) was lowest among recent marijuana users (5.2%), intermediate among past users (6.7%), and highest among never users (8.1%, P=0.02), the researchers report in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

In multivariate analysis, recent marijuana use was associated with 36% lower odds of constipation and past marijuana use was associated with 17% lower odds of constipation compared with never users, both significant risk reductions.

The association remained significant after adjustment for demographic factors, comorbidities and diet, but there was no longer a difference between past users and never users.

There was no relationship between marijuana use and diarrhea in either univariate or multivariate analyses.

Marijuana use was not associated with constipation or diarrhea as defined by bowel-movement frequency.

“Further studies are needed to identify how use of whole cannabis, different marijuana strains, and frequency of marijuana use exert their apparent effects on constipation,” the authors conclude.

Dr. Raquel Abalo Delgado of Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, in Madrid, who recently reviewed cannabinoid pharmacology and therapy in gut disorders, told Reuters Health by email, “This seems to be in contradiction with the well-known constipating effects of marijuana, its derivatives, and synthetic cannabinoids, particularly those acting upon CB1 receptors. However, these results can be due to different factors, most, if not all, related with the observational design of the study and the relatively little information obtained from the questionnaires.”

“Since use of recreational and medical marijuana (or other cannabinoids) is likely to increase worldwide, it is necessary to clarify its impact on all health issues, including gastrointestinal-tract function, many times overlooked compared with other ‘more vital’ body systems,” she said. “To what extent constipation (and other motility disorders, like hyperemesis) induced by cannabis may be considered aversive by marijuana users and may contribute to reduce heavy marijuana consumption has not been studied.”

“Likewise, the pharmacology of the different compounds present in the plant and how they contribute to the final effect on gut function need to be clearly determined,” said Dr. Abalo, who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Michael Camilleri of Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, who also was not part of the study, recently reviewed cannabinoids and gastrointestinal motility in humans. He told Reuters Health by email, “No definite conclusions should be drawn from these epidemiological studies which constitute useful hypothesis-generating data.”

“Further studies with selective CB1 and CB2 receptor modifying medications should be further explored before any conclusions regarding the potential benefits of marijuana in gastrointestinal diseases,” he said.

Dr. Staller did not respond to a request for comments.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/2Pxlw00 The American Journal of Gastroenterology, online November 22, 2019.

Read the entire article here

Patients line up for medical marijuana in Louisiana as dispensaries open their doors

MADISONVILLE, La. — Medical marijuana dispensaries opened Monday across Louisiana.

The one on the Northshore, in Madisonville, had a steady flow of patients.

There were children with autism, octogenarians with glaucoma, and all ages and medical conditions in between. First in line at the North Shore location was 80-year-old former state senator Tony Guarisco. Back in 1978, he wrote the first law for therapeutic use of marijuana. He was a young man then, in his late thirties.

“Here generations have suffered and not gotten medicine because of the recalcitrance of, of people in power, who never implemented the law that I passed,” he remembers.

Guarisco says his doctor hopes it will help reduce inflammation for his glaucoma.

RELATED: Medical marijuana sold in Louisiana after years in legal limbo

Story continues below video (Can’t see it? Click here)

“Over two generations waiting for today. I never thought I would be … a patient today,” said Guarisco, who was a state senator from 1976-88.

He got his first liquid dose for drops to go under his tongue, as another patient cheered him on.

Just an hour after the Willow Pharmacy opened, there were already two dozen people who had come through.

Scott Rigdon was one of them.

“This is a really great day for Louisianians,” Rigdon said.

He hopes this will help him get off of morphine for epilepsy and chronic orthopedic pain.

“This is very important, even though this is a great day for Louisiana, I do not think that marijuana should be legal, say in a convenience store,” Rigdon said.

The largest group of eye physicians and surgeons in the world does not endorse marijuana for glaucoma. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says there are several safe and reliable treatments already and this is not adequate.

The cost ranges from $99 to $200 depending on the strength, and insurance won’t cover the cost of product or the doctor visit.