Gov. John Bel Edwards picks new pharmacy board member at center of dispute over marijuana pharmacy license

Gov. John Bel Edwards has appointed to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy Sajal Roy, who earlier this year was simultaneously suing the board over his lost bid for the coveted exclusive medical marijuana pharmacy permit in New Orleans and gunning for the board seat.

Roy, who owns a marijuana pharmacy in Maryland, successfully pushed a new law through the Legislature earlier this year that changed the requirements for serving on the board so he would qualify. That law reduced the minimum requirement from five years of practice in Louisiana to two years.

At the time, Roy said he wanted to make changes to the board in part because of how the marijuana pharmacy permitting process played out, in 2018. Roy was passed over for a marijuana pharmacy permit last year despite being recommended by a selection committee.

Roy, through a specialty pharmacy he owns in Metairie, also donated $50,000 to Gumbo PAC in August, Ethics Board records show. Gumbo PAC is the Super PAC that spent millions to help Edwards win reelection Saturday in a closely-contested race against Republican challenger Eddie Rispone.

Christina Stephens, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Roy was on a list of recommended appointees and didn’t have a lawsuit against the state when Edwards appointed him. She also said he is not going after the 10th marijuana pharmacy license, which is expected to be handed out for a high-demand region of the state sometime in the future.

“Also, he has knowledge and experience in the medical marijuana field, which is an important addition to that board,” Stephens said.

Edwards appointed Roy on Nov. 15, a day before the runoff election, according to an appointment letter. The term runs through 2025.

Louisiana’s tightly-regulated medical marijuana program called for nine initial marijuana pharmacies that dispense the drug to patients, each in a different region of the state. While a subcommittee of the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy recommended Roy’s firm win the license for the New Orleans region, the board itself picked H&W Drug Store, owned by longtime local pharmacist Ruston Henry.

About a month after that decision, Roy filed suit against the Board of Pharmacy over its selection of H&W, accusing it of “improperly” issuing the license there. The lawsuit argued that because the board ignored its own committee’s advice, the selection process was flawed, among other things.

A Baton Rouge judge tossed the suit in May and Roy dropped a planned appeal, making the board’s decision final.

Roy was running against the board member who previously held the seat representing Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes, Diane Milano. State law requires the candidates for a board seat to win votes from pharmacists that live in the seat’s district. The top three vote-getters are then sent to the governor, who picks one. Public records show Roy placed third, with 22 votes, while Milano got 85 and another candidate got 83.

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