Study: Medical marijuana could be more than $300M industry in Louisiana _lowres

A marijuana plant grows at a Minnesota Medical Solutions greenhouse in Otsego, Minn., in an Associated Press file photo. (AP Photo,Star Tribune,Glen Stubbe,File)

As state lawmakers consider various issues that have long prevented legal medical marijuana use in Louisiana, a new study out from pro-pot groups suggests that the state could be missing out on a $200 million to $330 million industry.

The only issue: Reaping such a windfall would require legislators who are already wary of appearing too favorable to marijuana to expand the number of medical conditions that can be treated by the use of cannabis.

The study, backed by the Louisiana Cannabis Association in conjunction with the Colorado-based Marijuana Policy Group, is the first comprehensive look at the potential financial impact of medical marijuana in Louisiana. It attempts to assesses the potential patient demand under “best-practice methods” based on trends where the drug has been legalized for medicinal purposes.

Glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia and cancer are the only medical conditions covered under current law. Based on use trends in Colorado and Oregon related to those three ailments, the market size would be about $12.3 million and $14.8 million.

The study suggests that the industry would be even more profitable if it’s opened up to patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, seizure and spasm disorders and other ailments. Under that scenario, the market demand would grow to an estimated $203 million and $333.9 million.

Under an estimated 4 percent excise tax scenario, the current conditions would generate at least half a million dollars for the state. The expanded conditions would produce $4.7 million to more than $13 million.

“By adopting the same limits on the conditions that are allowed to be treated by medical marijuana as those found in other states, Louisiana can create meaningful increases in tax receipts,” Adam Orens, of MPG, said in a statement.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana for more than two decades, but no one’s been able to legally use it because the state didn’t established a framework for the distribution or cultivation of the plant, which remains a Schedule One narcotic in the eyes of the federal government.

Last year, state lawmakers began to unravel the hang-ups and pave the way for medical marijuana’s use here. But questions remain over who will grow and distribute medical marijuana through the new legal market, so it hasn’t actually started happening.

Read the full report here.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .