Competition for Louisiana’s 10th medical cannabis retail license features some heavy hitters from the sports, educational, political and law enforcement realms.
Under legislation that took effect last month, Louisiana’s retail footprint could more than triple with the state’s nine existing operators now allowed to open up additional dispensaries in each of their respective regions.
Also under House Bill 697, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy is required to issue the state’s first new medical cannabis retail license since the program’s inception three years ago, allowing a 10th operator to enter the market in the New Orleans region.
State officials have received 28 applications for that 10th license, and many of them are high-profile bidders, The New Orleans Advocate (NOLA) reported. Among those vying for the first new retail license since commercial sales launched in 2019 include:
- Steve Gleason, a former NFL safety who played seven seasons with the New Orleans Saints and was later diagnosed with ALS;
- Tulane University;
- Warren Riley, a former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department from 2005 to 2010; and
- Katie Bernhardt, who chairs the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Bernhardt, in particular, was recently a target of accusations by Gary Chambers Jr., of Baton Rouge, a pro-cannabis candidate running as a Democrat to become the first Black U.S. senator for Louisiana.
As chairwoman, Bernhardt allegedly blocked Chambers from being the only endorsed candidate for the Democratic Party, with Chambers accusing that she told him last year “that a Black man can’t win in Louisiana statewide,” Fox News reported. The Democratic Party bypassed a subcommittee’s vote to endorse Chambers as the sole candidate and instead voted to endorse three candidates.
Meanwhile, former football pro Gleason has publicly advocated for cannabis reform, testifying in front of the Louisiana Medical Marijuana Commission in 2021 that the plant’s medicinal properties saved him from a “downward spiral” after he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in his mid-30s. He is now listed as 30% owner of Salus Wellness, which wants to open a dispensary on Clearview Parkway in Metairie, NOLA reported.
The list of applicants for the 10th retail license also includes Nick Cahanin, a former aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal who now works a lobbyist; former Baton Rouge area Judge Freddie Pitcher Jr.; and Baton Rouge trial attorney Robert Lucky.
The applicants will be ranked by a state committee in November before the Pharmacy Board approves the 10th license.
That newly enacted legislation also added several qualifying conditions to Louisiana’s medical cannabis program, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain associated with sickle cell anemia or fibromyalgia.
Growing patient numbers in each of the nine regions will allow existing retailers to open up to two additional dispensaries in their areas.