LSU fires back in cannabis flap, calls Strain’s accusations reckless, untrue

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(Daily Advertiser)- LSU AgCenter Vice President Bill Richardson on Friday, March 8, 2019, fired back at Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, calling Strain’s accusation that LSU is breaking the law by expanding its medical marijuana program “untrue” and “reckless.”

It’s the latest volley in an escalating feud between LSU AgCenter and Strain over the state’s fledgling cannabis program.

“Commissioner Strain made reckless and unsupported public accusations against the LSU AgCenter and GB Sciences Louisiana (LSU’s private partner) and threatened litigation,” Richardson said in a statement. “The allegations made by Commissioner Strain are simply untrue.”

The LSU AgCenter and Southern University AgCenter are the only ones who can legally grow the cannabis and produce the medicine, but Strain is the regulator who must sign off on their ability to proceed.

Though medical cannabis has been legal for years, it has yet to reach pharmacies and patients because of regulatory hurdles for LSU and its private partner GB Sciences. Southern’s program lags LSU because of early issues with its original private partner.

LSU contends Strain’s agency granted permission last week to proceed with moving the first crop from a small temporary growing pod into the main facility, but Strain said the move was based on a proposed contract with conditions that LSU refused to sign.

“They’ve fought the law every step of the way,” Strain said Monday in an exclusive interview with USA Today Network. “We’ve sent them a notice that they’re in violation of the law and we’ll proceed to a (court hearing).

“It’s crystal clear the movement of the plants was contingent on signing the memorandum of understanding,” said Strain, who said LSU AgCenter has resisted oversight from the beginning.

Richadson said the written offer from Strain to move the plants wasn’t reliant on signing the memorandum of understanding, insisting that was separate from the permission to move the plants.

“Relying on this written approval from the LDAF, the LSU AgCenter moved plant material into the two specific rooms on Friday, March 1, 2019,” Richards said. “The following Monday, an LDAF inspector issued a deficiency notice to the LSU AgCenter for doing what Commissioner Strain expressly approved the week before.”

Richardson said patients are suffering while he contends Strain is unnecessarily dragging his feet.

“Commissioner Strain’s actions are preventing thousands of patients from receiving the medical relief that they are anxiously awaiting and deserve,” Richardson said. “The LSU AgCenter calls on Commissioner Mike Strain to immediately allow this program to proceed, so that the patients of Louisiana can receive the medicine to which they are legally entitled.”

Strain has said LSU and GB Sciences are resisting providing information to Louisiana State Police for a required “suitability study,” or extensive background check that must be complete before Strain gives his blessing.

“Nothing is being done to hinder production of medical marijuana,” Strain said Friday in a statement. “The reason for issuing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to allow LSU AgCenter, the licensee, to supervise its subcontractor, GBSL, during hours of operation at the facility until the suitability determination is approved.

“LSU, the licensee, is deemed suitable by law, but GBSL, the subcontractor, is not. Suitability, as required by law, includes but is not limited to criminal, civil and financial background checks. In accordance with the MOU, LSU can supervise GBSL, the subcontractor, until the suitability process is completed and approved by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).

“As of now, LSU-GBSL is not in compliance. Again, the LDAF cannot give LSU-GBSL the authority to break the law. However, LSU-GBSL can be in compliance to only move plant material into the requested rooms (Mother room and Vegetative room) by signing the MOU which was clearly a requirement as noted in the original letter dated February 28, 2019.”

Read the full article at klfy.com

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Lawmaker predicts legislative hearings on state’s troubled medical marijuana program

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The state legislator who sponsored the 2015 bill creating the state’s star-crossed medical marijuana program expects lawmakers will call public hearings when they convene next month if there’s no resolution to the escalating dispute between the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the LSU AgCenter over the suitability of LSU’s grow partner.

Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, says it’s frustrating that nearly four years after lawmakers legalized medical marijuana there’s still no product on the shelves of the 10 pharmacies licensed to provide relief to patients around the state suffering from chronic illness.

“There is going to have to be some public hearings to let the public know what the status of everything is,” Mills says. “I think the committee chairs are going to call everybody to the table to tell us what the heck is going on. If between now and April 8 they cannot get this worked out, we’re going to have to get much more involved.”

The Southern University Ag Center and the LSU AgCenter are the only two licensed growers in the state under the law, yet neither has been able to bring a product to market.

Southern’s delays stem from problems it has had with its private grow partner. That firm has since been bought out by a new group of investors and the program appears to be back on track.

LSU’s program, however, which had planned to have medical marijuana available by the beginning of the year, is now embroiled in controversy with LDAF over suitability issues with its grow partner, GB Sciences.

The university says LDAF is placing unfair regulatory burdens on GB Sciences, while LDAF says the company has refused to make available certain information necessary to determine its suitability.

LSU counters the firm was vetted during a public procurement process and has met all the state’s requirements.

Mills says he’s been trying to get to the bottom of what’s behind all the bad blood, which culminated earlier this month when LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain accused LSU and GB Sciences of breaking the law by moving plant material into a part of its Industriplex growth facility before signing a Memorandum of Understanding. LSU says it will not sign the MOU because it is beyond the scope of the law.

“I’ve told all sides they’ve got to sit in a big conference room with every lawyer available and iron this thing out,” Mills says. “It’s not that hard. We’re not the first state to market. This is not a pioneering piece of agriculture. Why is it taking us so long to reinvent the wheel?”

Gov. John Bel Edwards declines to get involved in the dispute at this point, saying through a spokesperson that the issue falls under the purview of the commissioner of agriculture.

Read the full article on Business Report

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Agriculture department offers to let LSU expand marijuana production as regulatory process plays out

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Louisiana’s state agriculture department on Thursday offered to give LSU permission to expand its medical marijuana-growing operations if its contractor meets certain conditions related to the regulatory process.

Under the agreement, which has not yet been signed, LSU and its contractor, GB Sciences Louisiana, would be allowed to move “plant material” into the vegetative room and mother room of its production facility in south Baton Rouge.

GB Sciences is currently operating in a smaller “pod” facility and has not moved into the main facility because it has not won full regulatory approvals from the state agriculture department. The endeavor has been delayed several times, keeping marijuana from reaching patients several years after the state legalized the program.

View the full article here

View the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners Verification Results here. 

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Our opinion: Medical marijuana — State must work out the problems

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Louisiana has had more than enough time to get its medical marijuana program up and running.

Not only does the state Department of Agriculture have guiding instructions in the form of the 2016 law regulating the effort, but it also has the collective experience of the many other states that have been down this road before us. And, most importantly, it has had two years to get it off the ground.

But still there are delays and confusion.

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These States Are Most Likely To Legalize Marijuana In 2019

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Watch Sen. Mitch McConnell use a pen made out of hemp to sign off on the final version of the Farm Bill…which legalizes hemp

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VIDEO: Watch Sen. Mitch McConnell use a pen made out of hemp to sign off on the final version of the Farm Bill…which legalizes hemp.

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Southern University gives ultimatum to marijuana partner, warning it could pick another vendor

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Southern University has given Advanced Biomedics until next Thursday to pay $2.15 million to the university and make progress on its medical marijuana growing operations, warning the company in a letter that otherwise the university would be “forced” to pick someone else to run its program.

Read more

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The Results are in!

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See the results for each state below:

Michigan Passes

North Dakota fails

Missouri Passes

Utah Passes

 

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Mexico Supreme Court Ruling Effectively Legalizes Marijuana Use, Possession and Cultivation

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Available Now for Interview and Analysis: DPA International Drug Policy Expert Hannah Hetzer

Contact:
Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Hannah Hetzer 917-701-7060

In two separate rulings Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court effectively set binding precedent that ends the country’s prohibition on marijuana use, possession and cultivation.

The following is a statement from Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance:

“This is extraordinary because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs. With marijuana already legal in Canada, now both of the US’s neighbors will have legal marijuana, making the US federal government’s prohibition of marijuana even more untenable.”

Hetzer is available for live and taped interviews in English and Spanish to provide analysis on this groundbreaking ruling, which paves the way for national legalization in Mexico.

http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2018/11/mexico-supreme-court-ruling-effectively-legalizes-marijuana-use-possession

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The Southern University partnership with Advanced Biomedics

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The Southern University partnership with Advanced Biomedics (AB) to produce and process therapeutic Cannabis or medical marijuana for the Louisiana patient population is woefully behind schedule.  Given that the state of Louisiana opted to have the fewest number of producers in the country among legal medical marijuana (mmj) states, this situation creates yet another serious problem for the larger program.  With LSU’s partnership having recently harvested their first crop, this puts the mmj supply in the hands of a sole source provider or monopoly.
Monopolies tend to only be good for one entity – that which holds the monopoly.  Under these circumstances that will surely last for at least another year while SU gets their house in order, the patients of Louisiana will continue to suffer.  It has been forty (40) years now since Louisiana remarkably became one of the first four states along with  IL, NM and FL to have any therapeutic Cannabis  program on the books.  There is an excellent non-profit dedicated to patients and mmj education called “Patients Out of Time” (https://www.medicalcannabis.com) and to borrow from their moniker, Louisiana patients too are out of time.  At SMPL, we think of all the many patients within our state and membership who are currently suffering.  They suffer in ways that they certainly shouldn’t have to while they wait for the Louisiana mmj program to get past the decades of delays, overcome the resistance and dysfunction and finally place meaningful medicines on the shelves for them to try.  There is no guarantee any of it will work for all of them, but it most certainly will work for many of them and each deserves a chance to try.  The only guarantee at this point is that there is a lot more unnecessary waiting ahead.
The excellent article below provides another look inside of the Louisiana mmj program and it provides additional important details on the 1/2 of production under the control of Southern University.  What it does not yet explain are these things: (1) Why Southern University has allowed their partner, AB, to continue for over a year without showing any tangible signs of progress of any kind – no land, no building, no equipment, no contracts, no staff of any kind, (2) How much longer this non-functioning program will be allowed to continue, (3) Aside from the promised cash to SU that has never materialized, why SU chose AB in the first place or allowed them to continue when none of the benchmarks were met or contracts for any staff or experts were in place, (4) Whether there is any minority ownership or SU alumni involvement in AB, and (5) How the details of the Perret deal to purchase a majority of AB from Castille reveal a “flipping” effort to take control of the contract from one Lafayette area man with no capacity to produce or process mmj and transfer it to another Lafayette area man who similarly has no team in place to cultivate, extract and produce Cannabis medicines for the patients of our state.
While all of this festers at the expense of Louisiana’s patients, the SU leadership has thus far done little to nothing to intervene and assert the control that was granted to them by the Louisiana legislature.  The legislators and elected officials, thus far, have been willing to look the other way while this situation continues.  Meanwhile, all SU would need to do in order to confirm that AB is a “house of cards” in breach of their contract is to request a copy of any of the employment agreements or contracts with any of their alleged team.  Doing this would also reveal that AB was wrongly awarded points by the SU review committee for a “team” that only existed on the application papers, but that never actually existed in real time.  Thus, SU chose a “team” that had a combined total of zero (0) years of experience in the industry, no capacity or ability to deliver on the promises to the University to produce mmj and, in fact, none of the minority or SU alumni ownership or participation that Southern purported to want in their partnership.
That last part is also very damning because the larger national mmj industry suffers from a pitiful paucity of minority and particularly black ownership or even employment (~1-5%) and this was to have been the golden opportunity for the only HBCU in the country with any involvement in the industry to make a real difference in that regard.  SU has within it’s reach the ability to hire the best and the brightest in this industry and to train the next generation of Cannabis experts and entrepreneurs.  Meanwhile, wealthy white LA republicans with no experience or even any actual interest in mmj (beyond the money) are busy flipping or trying to flip this contract for literally millions of dollars while SU sits idly by and empty handed and the patients are still suffering.  Below, this article in the Advocate is the closest we’re going to get for now at a fuller picture of what is happening behind the scenes over at Southern University – a quasi-governmental entity.  Alas, it appears that Louisiana could still mess up a lemonade stand and so far, Southern itself isn’t making the grade, but rest assured that SMPL is keeping a watchful eye.
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