The top-scoring candidate for Southern University's medical marijuana business, a company whose bid was ultimately rejected, has sued Southern for public records related to the selection process.
In its 19th Judicial District Court lawsuit, Lafayette-based Med Louisiana LLC says on Oct. 20 it asked Southern for copies of the other two finalists' applications. Med Louisiana also requested copies of emails, text messages, phone call logs/records by and between members of Southern's board of supervisors, the school and employees of the school's purchasing department.
On Oct. 25, the lawsuit says Southern general counsel Tracie Woods told Med Louisiana the school would need about two more weeks to gather the documents and that the cost of copying would be high. On Oct. 27, Med Louisiana protested, saying Southern required the applications be submitted electronically so copies would take no time to produce.
Southern issued a statement Wednesday saying although it has not seen the lawsuit, the university has been processing several public records requests by unsuccessful medical marijuana vendors.
"The difficulty and time-consuming nature of processing the public records request is that each of the seven proposers was required to disclose significant amounts of personal background information (including several years of personal tax returns) as part of the vetting process," the school said in the statement. "The proposals collectively encompass tens of thousands of pages and reviewing them to redact personal information such as individual Social Security numbers has been a labor-intensive process."
Southern said it has always intended to produce the requested records and that it's unfortunate the delay in reviewing the voluminous records resulted in a lawsuit.
Med Louisiana is protesting the award of the medical marijuana business to a competitor, and the school's refusal to release the records has prevented Med Louisiana from a full and fair protest, said Jill Craft, Med Louisiana's attorney. Med Louisiana is asking the court to force Southern to produce the records and to reimburse Med Louisiana for attorney's fees and other costs.
Southern and LSU hold the only two state licenses for medical marijuana. Southern's board met Sept. 8 to select a contractor for its medical marijuana business. At the meeting, Southern's review committee recommended Med Louisiana, citing the firm's financial strength, cultivation expertise and proprietary patents.
Although Med Louisiana offered Southern a greater share of future profits, some board members questioned the wisdom of betting on profits that might never materialize.
Board members pointed out that Advanced Biomedics of Lafayette guaranteed Southern $6 million over the five-year contract, roughly three times the amount that Med Louisiana promised. They also criticized Med Louisiana's plan to put the grow facility in St. Landry Parish.
The board gave bidders another week to tweak their proposals. On Sept. 22, Southern's board voted to award the contract for its medical marijuana business to Advanced Biomedics.