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Louisiana doctors (very) slowly applying for medical marijuana permits

BATON ROUGE, La. — The number of doctors who have applied for permission to dispense medical marijuana is edging upward, as the estimated summer start of the program gets closer.

In October, only two doctors had submitted applications for the permit required to offer medical-grade pot to patients. Two months later, that has increased to six doctors.

Three applications have been approved, according to the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. None have been denied. The rest are pending. Nearly all the doctors who have applied practice in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, though an Alexandria doctor’s application is pending.

The information came in response to a public records request filed by The Associated Press.

Only the agricultural centers at LSU and Southern University are allowed to grow medicinal-grade cannabis, and both schools have selected their vendors to run the growing operations. LSU estimates its product will be available by the summer.

Louisiana’s law will eventually get the drug to people with cancer, a severe form of cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy and other diseases, officials say. Marijuana can be available in medicinal oils, pills, sprays and topical applications, but cannot be sold in a form that can be smoked.

Doctors won’t issue a prescription, but instead a “physician recommendation form,” a legal nuance aimed at keeping doctors from jeopardizing their medical licenses because federal law prohibits prescribing marijuana.

No dispensing pharmacies have yet been selected. The Board of Pharmacy announced in its solicitation of applications that it intends to issue one permit in each of the nine state-designated health care regions in January.