As of this August, Louisiana became one of the two states in the deep south to pass a bill that has approved the cultivation and dispensing of medical marijuana (APNews). Medical Marijuana is currently available in 33 states across The United States, with Louisiana being the most recent addition to the program (Leafly). The state of Louisiana has only approved two facilities to conduct and facilitate the cultivation of Marijuana, both are located at agricultural university campuses, one at the Louisiana State University, grown by GB Sciences and the other at Southern University grown by Ilera Holistic Healthcare (APnews). With this being said, the Alison Neustrom Act named only two businesses allowed to grow medical marijuana and are limited to these two providers only. This allows the state and the department to have total control of regulation, price, quality, quantity, and the general direction Medical Marijuana will move in our state (LDAF). These two main facilities are the pioneers of the medical marijuana movement in Louisiana, and alongside them are the nine pharmacies across the state who were appointed by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to dispense Medical Marijuana in their stores.
Though the change has been recent, policy reform has been in the works since the year 2015 and the finalization of the Medical Marijuana Program came about in July 2017 and introduction of medical marijuana to the public only came about earlier this month in 2019. Though medical marijuana is now legal, the state of Louisiana still does not allow the private growth of marijuana unless it is a licensed production facility (LDAF). Though it is too early to conduct a full quantitative study, patients have commented that they have seen significant improvements with their medical condition (Leafly).
With the approval being so recent, all eyes are on the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, who is in charge of the clearing and distribution process and how efficient this program will work. Kettl in chapter one discusses program accountability and the factors that play into public administration and their decision making, primarily the outside influences such as private-sector businesses and constituents. What is also discussed is the political aspect of public administration. It is currently election year for many elected-positions across the state of Louisiana including state-senator, lt. governor, representative, and governor. Whoever is elected or re-elected into these seats will also play a factor in just how much medical marijuana can progress in the state of Louisiana. The Department of Agriculture and Forestry could see a hindrance in progress or stricter regulations if elected officials were to decide that the state implemented medical marijuana unjustly.
In correlation to influences of the private-sector, with the Neustrom Act limiting the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana to two sole private entities, the state has allowed there to be gridlock and no competition outside of these two chosen facilities (LSUAG). This is against the spirit of free-market capitalism, which allows businesses to compete with each other in order for prices to not be gridlocked at a high cost due to the competitive culture. This places an ethical problem for the state of Louisiana and the way they are implementing the medical marijuana program. The facilities are not operated by the state of Louisiana but have left these two entities to be the sole proprietor in this new era for Louisiana pharmaceuticals with no chance of private-owned businesses to be part of the cultivation process. The idea of only allowing these two entities to be the licensees comes from a stand-point focusing on research and quality control but in the cost of economic development. The Neustrom Act is obsolete for it is the base framework for the Medical Marijuana Program and is the only way for medical marijuana to be introduced and distributed, the state is ultimately sacrificing economic development by not allowing businesses to compete. This comes in the cost of the process and program accountability of the LDAF, making sure that the product and services being provided of a substance already deemed dangerous by being a schedule I substance, is following FDA regulation. The program has been contracted to private companies within the state, it would have been more ethical to allow the state to fund and run the programs themselves allowing tax dollars to make revenue, allowing no private business to hold a monopoly.
Should the private sector be a part of this huge change within the state of Louisiana by allowing private ran cultivation businesses to have licenses as long as they adhere to the regulations and are strictly tested for quality control?