NEW ORLEANS — Medicinal marijuana is expected to arrive at Louisiana dispensaries Tuesday, Aug. 6.
It will only be available at nine special dispensing pharmacies across the state. One is in Orleans Parish, in Gentilly, at the intersection of Paris and Mirabeau avenues.
Doctors who want to write a recommendation for medicinal marijuana have to go through a special online process with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. It is not called a prescription, but rather a recommendation.
For now, people will only be able to get marijuana in liquid form in three different strengths.
Claire Morgan was only in her 40s raising two children when something changed.
“It started with just stiffness. It started with just a low back ache. It has progressed to a wide spread muscular pain,” said Morgan, 49, of Covington.
The once active runner, can now only walk around the block on a good day. She can no longer sit in chair, go to dinner or a movie or even garden. It took years and countless doctors to diagnose an autoimmune illness called stiff person syndrome (SPS).
“I have something that literally is a one in a million diagnosis,” she said.
“Her muscles will contract, will spasm 24 hours a day, and when I say muscles, everything,” explained Dr. Chad Domangue of Cypress Pointe Pain Management in Covington and Hammond.
There is no cure, so Claire has been treated with multiple strong medications, but they have side effects.
“You can barely stay awake. You can’t have bowel movements. You can’t enjoy life. You can’t do anything because your cure, that you have to have, is causing all these symptoms,” Dr. Domangue said.
So, Dr. Domangue, a neurology, psychiatry and pain management specialist, will recommend Claire try medically-dispensed marijuana. Drops will go under her tongue. He believes it is safe with fewer side effects than some other medications.
Still it’s something the U.S. Surgeon General has said needs more research.
“I want you to hear me say this as the nation’s doctor, there is no such thing as medical marijuana,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told an audience several weeks ago.
When asked how a doctor knows what dose to prescribe when there is a lack of testing and research on marijuana, Dr. Domangue replied, “We don’t. That’s just it. We have literature to help us, to help guide us.”
“You do get to a point where you are willing to try something that might improve your quality of life, and I trust Dr. Domangue. And I know he will work with me to see what works, and if it doesn’t, then we’ll find something else,” Morgan said.
Only certain conditions qualify for the marijuana liquid:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus
- Acquired immune deficiency syndrome
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Seizure disorders
- Severe muscle spasms
- Intractable pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Muscular dystrophy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Insurance will not pay for the marijuana or the exam.