Bidders for Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center say three Louisiana firms have been named as finalists to run the center's medical marijuana business.
Two companies are from Lafayette: Advanced Biomedics and Med Louisiana. One is from Baton Rouge, Southern Roots Therapeutics.
The information was confirmed by people associated with two of the bidders. Southern University officials did not respond for comment Wednesday, but put out a press release Thursday confirming the finalists. The release also said that during the upcoming week, closed interviews will be conducted by the Medical Marijuana Review Committee to complete the evaluation process. The final selection of a cultivator will be submitted to the Southern University Board of Supervisors for approval before contract negotiations are held.
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Med Louisiana's registered agent is listed as Charles M. Rush and the listed officer is Ashley A. Hohorst, according to Louisiana Secretary of State records.
Advanced Biomedics lists Neighbors Pharmacy owner Chad Bodin as its manager and Robin Sylvester as agent.
Southern Roots' managers are Jacob Irving and Leah Simon. Southern Roots was among the companies that applied to run LSU's medical marijuana business.
Southern's other applicants were AquaPharm, Citiva Louisiana, Columbia Care and United States Hemp Corp., according to Southern University. However, United States Hemp has repeatedly said it is not an applicant, only a consultant to an applicant, which it did not name.
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Southern's Agricultural Research and Extension Center and the LSU AgCenter hold the only Louisiana licenses for medical marijuana under authorization approved by the state Legislature in 2015. LSU recently picked Las Vegas-based GB Sciences Inc. to operate its medical marijuana program, estimated to have a five-year operating cost of more than $11 million.
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The Southern University contract, which covers five years, makes the companies responsible for all of the expenses involved in running its business. Southern has estimated the initial investment will range from $5 million to $7 million.
Southern had originally planned to name the finalists on June 30, but the proposed schedule has since changed. Under the original timeline, oral presentations and interviews would have begun 10 days after the finalists were announced. The university had set aside a week for that task, with the winning vendor announced three days after the interviews and presentations being completed.
State law requires the medicine to be in a liquid, such as an oil or spray; capsules or pills; edible dosages; topical applications; trans-dermal patches; or suppositories. The law limits the number of illnesses that can be treated with medical marijuana, including cancer, HIV and AIDS, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn's disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated Aug. 17, 2017, with information from a press release issued by Southern University confirming the finalists and announcing closed interviews with applicants.