New Orleans marijuana dispensary license fight raises questions about process

By Justin Stoltzfus | May 30, 2018

A race to obtain permits for some of the state's first medical marijuana dispensaries has at least one business suing over not being selected for a regional license.

BATON ROUGE — A race to obtain permits for some of the state's first medical marijuana dispensaries has at least one business suing over not being selected for a regional license.

In Louisiana, these decisions are made by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, a state agency that works with federal regulators on pharmaceutical issues.

The board recently handed out the first nine regional permits, and its choice for the New Orleans regional permit has sparked a lawsuit, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

The business that ranked first in the board’s selection study, Rx Greenhouse, filed suit after the board awarded the license to H&W Drug Store, which finished fourth place in the selection process.

Reports show that the owner of H&W Drug Store visited the board during the voting session to make a personal pitch for his business.

New Orleans wasn't the only region to see a difference between the selection committee’s award recommendation and the actual awarded applicant. 

In five of the nine regions in which dispensary licenses were awarded, the pharmacy board rejected the selection committee’s recommendations, going with other applicants.

At least one other applicant expressed surprise, but did not choose to litigate, according to reports. 

Those working on behalf of Rx Greenhouse say they are pushing back against policy decisions that could have a broader impact statewide.

“The basis of our theory is that no state agency, no matter the subject area, should be allowed to make a brash decision such as this one without giving the public a really good reason for doing so,” Alex Onstott, an attorney for Rx Greenhouse, told the Louisiana Record, in an exclusive statement. “Stability and predictability are major considerations when businesses are considering what states to bring our expertise and money to. When an agency makes a decision like this without any explanation, it undermines confidence in our state government, and it hurts our economic growth.”

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