BATON ROUGE – Louisiana State Legislators, a United States Senator, sheriffs, and other high-profile professionals have given letters of recommendation to applicants bidding for marijuana permits for the state's impending medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana is expected to be implemented in the state this fall.

A public record request revealed documents that show the lawmakers and law enforcement officials provided the recommendations in an effort to help the applicants have successful bids for marijuana permits.

The state of Louisiana limited the number of pharmacies that could dispense medical marijuana to 10. The limited number created competition for the coveted marijuana permits, prompting applicants to seek the recommendations.

One politician who wrote a recommendation letter was U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R). Cassidy wrote a letter for the medical marijuana company Acadiana Therapeutic Remedies in Lafayette. Mayor Joel Robideaux and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry also wrote letters for the company. The permit was declined, but another pharmacy with a recommendation letter from Mayor Robideaux was approved.

Hope Pharmacy in Shreveport had a recommendation from the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Mike Cazes and was also approved.

Marijuana Permits Influence Factor Not Quite Clear 

The Louisiana Department of Health's Board of Pharmacy executive director Malcolm Broussard would not comment on whether the recommendation letters influenced any decision making regarding the marijuana permits. "To answer those questions, I would need to disclose comments made during executive session," he said.

The Louisiana State University along with Southern University's agricultural departments will be the only establishments allowed to cultivate the state's medical marijuana. Permits were approved for medical marijuana pharmacies in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Madisonville, New Orleans, Shreveport, and West Monroe.

There are approximately 15 physicians licensed to recommend medical marijuana in the state so far. Only 20 doctors have applied to the Louisiana medical marijuana program, and the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners has approved 15 applicants.

Chronic pain is the number one complaint for most medical consumers seeking medical marijuana in the state, and analysts estimate that chronic pain medical marijuana consumers could earn the state an additional $3 million to $4 million annually in tax revenue.