The state's first medical marijuana drugstore license was issued to the long-time owner of the H & W Drug Store in New Orleans on Tuesday to deliver the drug to a planned Gentilly site.
The marijuana pharmacy would be 4718 Paris Ave. H & W operates two regular pharmacies in New Orleans.
The surprising vote by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy gave the green light to H & W Drug Store, despite the company's fourth place in the selection process. The decision came after a long and passionate presentation by H & W owner and CEO Ruston Henry and his brother and business adviser Troy Henry at the Tuesday hearing. The vote was unanimous after the board had deliberated more than an hour behind closed doors.
"The board has reassessed itself," said Ruston Henry after the decision. "If you look closely and see our website, our experience, they had to come to that conclusion."
The move is an important step in the nation's burgeoning medical marijuana program, which is expected this year.
A building permit was issued for a $ 6 million medical marijuana grow facility that is located on the site of a former Pepsi distributor …  A selection committee of Board of Pharmacy members reviewed dozens of applications for marijuana pharmacies across the country before ranking them hearings last month. Nine regions of the state are planned for marijuana pharmacies. The board also issued regional licenses on Tuesday for Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houma and Lake Charles. Licensing continues on Wednesday for the North Coast, Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria.
After wrapping up two days of hearings Wednesday, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy will study the applications of n …  Board member Allen Cassidy said the board believed that H & W was the "most qualified" candidate after having reviewed his application and heard his testimony. He added that the board members who voted for the licenses did not include the members of the selection panel who did not hear the additional testimonies from March and Tuesday.
"It was not that we outdid that!" Committee, "said Cassidy. "We had more information presented to us than the committee."
Cassidy said he was not personally concerned about potential legal issues as the board did not select the top-ranked candidate.
Sajal Roy, CEO of The Top Applicant, Rx Greenhouse, said he was surprised about the motion of the board.
"What is the purpose of a subcommittee?" Roy said. "I was on the Maryland Board of Pharmacy and I can tell you that we did not do that."
Roy said that he plans to file a public application for H & W's application and did not exclude a legal challenge, but said he did not want to sue and delay the process. He said he did not know what had changed since the Selection Committee made his recommendation, and wondered aloud why the Board did not explain his surprise vote.
The New Orleans pharmacy decision came after a lengthy and sometimes contentious hearing for the New Orleans area, where the remaining five applicants vied for the only permit for the area.
Roy's company and the second-placed group, GNO Medical Dispensary, exchanged controversial competing pitches in their presentations. Roy's group accused GNO's director, Nathaniel Graff, quietly persuading the owner of an indoor playground, along with Roy's proposed pharmacy location, to file a complaint with the board. Rx Greenhouse filed a sworn statement from the owner confirming the story and found that the owner withdrew her complaint.
Roy said putting a "target" on his back first.
"We all got behind us," he said.
Graff said in an e-mail that he was "disappointed" in the board's decision, but declined to comment.
During the hearing, Troy Henry accused his brother of being the "only adult in the room" and accused the other applicants of their websites and CEOs. Ruston Henry asked the board to rethink the ranking.
In his application, Henry named his pharmacy as the longest-running American pharmacy in New Orleans. The pharmacy, founded by Heinrich's father, has been in operation for more than 50 years.
Henry did not immediately post a schedule for the opening after the hearing and said he needed to meet with the board members again to discuss it.
In the Houma region, the board selected Green Leaf Dispensary as the only marijuana pharmacy in the area. Green Leaf took second place behind Bayou Therapeutics Pharmacy.
The Baton Rouge license went unanimously to Capitol Wellness Solutions, which defeated the only remaining Baton Rouge candidate, Green Magnolia Rx. Capitol Wellness Solutions took first place in the selection committee of the jury in the region.
Capitol Wellness is led by Randy Mire, a pharmacist who has owned Gem Drugs, which has two locations in Reserve and Gramercy, over the last decade. Mire's team includes TJ Woodard, who owns and operates prescriptions to Geaux in downtown Baton Rouge, and former Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie, who will serve as head of security.
In the Lafayatte area, a license went to Apothecary Shoppe LLC, which broke through a selection commission for the area. The company's CEO is Eric Vidrine, who runs several pharmacies in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, along with his business partners David Mayer and Brian Ruden, who own marijuana pharmacies in Colorado and Maryland. Kevin LaGrange, a pharmacist for professional art pharmacies, one of Vidrines pharmacies, will act as the responsible pharmacist.
Vidrines firm suggested Acadiana Therapeutic Remedies, which came from a group of Lafayette physicians led by Drs. Kevin Duplechain consisted of pharmacists, a local medical marijuana lawyer and an industry consultant. The pharmacy selection panel placed both companies first in the region during the selection process.
Acadiana Therapeutic Remedies promoted, among others, with letters of recommendation from senior politicians, including Attorney General Jeff Landry, US Senator. Bill Cassidy and Louisiana House Speaker Taylor Barras
Legislators of the state passed laws in 2016 to fully approve state medical marijuana programs. The LSU and Southern University Agricultural Centers then joined forces with private companies to grow the plant, and production is scheduled to begin later this year.
Louisiana's program is tightly regulated and empowers patients with a handful of serious illnesses for certain smokable forms of the drug. Under current law, patients can qualify for medical marijuana if they have one of ten serious conditions: cancer, HIV, AIDS, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizures, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn's disease, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. Efforts by lawmakers and advocates are underway to expand the list of diseases.
Louisiana legislators are in the process of expanding the federal state's medical marijuana program, as the product will be available within months.