Louisiana was a state that legalized medical cannabis but restricted the kind of products that patients could access. One of the most popular types of medical marijuana purchased at dispensaries is smokable varieties. That includes raw cannabis bud and vape oils.
The first legislation to legalize medical cannabis in Louisiana was signed in 1978. Governor Edwin Edwards passed a law that allowed patients with glaucoma and anyone undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment to qualify. But it was not until 1991 that another condition was added (quadriplegia).
Progress to expand the Louisiana medical cannabis program has been very slow. And compared to the evolution of cannabis programs for patients in other states? Louisiana is still in a stage of infancy.
But one important change went into effect on January 1, 2022. Patients with a medical marijuana card in Louisiana are now qualified to purchase smokable cannabis. And it has been a change that patients have been eagerly waiting for.
Edibles and vape cartridges are popular because they are easy to use. Both edibles and cannabis vape are also very discreet. You can ingest both forms without any telltale odors. And it is easy to administer whatever dose you need for symptom management. Edibles can be useful for chronic pain because the analgesic effects of certain strains can last for 4-6 hours. That can provide lasting relief.
But any time you have to process cannabis, the cost of the product increases for the end-user. Because the extraction process is time-intensive, and it requires specialized equipment and processing to create edibles or vape oils. Consequently, the cost of edibles and vaping are more expensive for patients.
What is less expensive is raw flower, or cannabis bud. The only thing that is required to prepare whole-flower cannabis for sale is trimming and packaging. So, retail dispensaries can offer it at a reasonable cost for patients.
Today, innovations in the design of dry herb vaporizers have made it far more convenient. And portable for cannabis users. You don’t need to pack (or clean) a bong to enjoy smokable flower.
And inhalable cannabis also takes effect far more quickly. If you have chronic pain, epilepsy and muscle spasms, or other symptoms, relief can happen as quickly as 4-7 minutes after inhalation.
Smokable cannabis is the fastest route for ingestion and relief. And that is why most patients prefer it. Also, more terpenes and flavonoids are present in raw cannabis, which can provide other wellness benefits.
The expectation for patients in Louisiana was that smokable cannabis would be less expensive. However, just a few days into the new year, patients who have visited dispensaries have experienced “sticker shock.” The price per ounce of smokable cannabis is, currently, very expensive in Louisiana.
How expensive? One source indicated that one-eight of an ounce of the flower was selling from $35 to more than $80. The cost was more in cities like New Orleans and West Monroe. But compared to national average prices for legal cannabis, the prices do not seem disproportionate.
There are only two licensed cultivators in Louisiana who supply the dispensaries with raw flower. Supply and demand are not expected to be a problem. But there is a monopoly of regional cannabis ‘pharmacies’ that eliminates competition. And consequently, it keeps prices from being discounted by competition (like they are in recreational states).
One of the advantages of legalizing smokable cannabis is that it could potentially reduce black market sales and distribution. That means less crime and more safety for consumers. But if the cost of smokable cannabis in Louisiana isn’t moderated, patients may continue to seek more economical (and illegal) alternatives.