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LSU and Southern University May Lose Exclusive Rights to Medical Marijuana Farming in Louisiana

A medical marijuana plant grows in a cultivation facility. LSU and Southern University, the only two universities in the country involved in cannabis farming, may soon lose their exclusive rights under a new Louisiana bill awaiting the governor's signature.
A medical marijuana plant grows in a cultivation facility. LSU and Southern University, the only two universities in the country involved in cannabis farming, may soon lose their exclusive rights under a new Louisiana bill awaiting the governor's signature.

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU and Southern University, the two public universities currently holding exclusive rights to medical marijuana farming in Louisiana, could soon lose their monopoly. The Louisiana Legislature has approved Senate Bill 228, which aims to privatize cannabis cultivation in the state. This bill now awaits the signature of Governor Jeff Landry.

Since the inception of Louisiana's medical marijuana program in 2015, LSU and Southern University have been the sole holders of the annual grower licenses issued by the state.


Senator Patrick McMath, R-Covington, who sponsored the bill, argues that it's time for these universities to focus on their primary educational missions rather than cannabis cultivation.

“They are the only two higher education systems in the country that are in the pot business right now,” McMath stated. “It is my belief that it’s time we get them out of that business and let them focus on higher education.”


Both LSU and Southern University partnered with private contractors to develop their cannabis operations: LSU with Good Day Farm and Southern University with Ilera Holistic Healthcare. If the bill is signed into law, these licenses would be transferred to the private companies, allowing them to renew annually.


Good Day Farm, which operates on a larger scale than Ilera, has notable connections with state lawmakers. The company’s primary shareholder is shipbuilding magnate Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, a significant Republican donor, and its president, John Davis, is married to state Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge. Good Day Farm did not respond to requests for comment.


Former state Rep. Joe Marino, a key figure in shaping Louisiana’s medical marijuana policy, criticized the legislation, arguing it creates a monopoly that favors a single company.

“It’s a monopoly,” Marino said in a phone interview.


Under the current legislation, no other companies can apply for grower licenses unless Good Day Farm or Ilera relinquishes theirs. Marino had previously attempted to expand the number of cultivation licenses, arguing that increased competition would meet the high demand for medical marijuana and reduce costs for patients at the state’s 10 licensed dispensaries.


Good Day Farm, which produces significantly more marijuana than Ilera, stands to dominate the market, particularly if the federal government reclassifies marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug. Currently, marijuana is classified alongside drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. The Biden administration has proposed reclassifying it to Schedule III, which includes drugs like ketamine and Tylenol with codeine. The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing this rescheduling plan.


During a March 20 committee hearing, McMath noted that the medical marijuana program was initially intended to be a private industry. The universities' involvement was added to the 2015 legislation through a last-minute amendment.


“It was never really their intention to be put into this bill,” McMath said.


A prior version of the bill included a provision for the universities to receive a percentage of the companies’ gross sales, but this was removed from the final version.


While the bill awaits the governor’s decision, state lawmakers are also considering Senate Bill 237, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport. This bill aims to dismantle a consumable hemp industry that inadvertently legalized recreational THC products and is pending final consideration on the House floor.

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