The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center says seven vendors have submitted applications to potentially become the medical marijuana cultivator for the center.
The center listed as applicants: Advanced Bio Medical; AquaPharm; Citiva Louisiana; Columbia Care; Med Louisiana; Southern Roots; and United States Hemp Corp., which says it is not an applicant, but has advised an applicant.
Three of the firms — Citiva, Columbia and Southern Roots — unsuccessfully bid to operate the LSU AgCenter's medical marijuana business.
The Southern University Ag Center is reviewing its applications. An evaluation committee expects to complete the review July 31, said LaKeeshia Giddens Lusk, research associate in the program development office of technology and communications in the Southern University Agricultural Research & Extension Center. After the review, the top three to four candidates will be interviewed before the committee submits its recommendation to the Southern University Board of Supervisors.
The contract, which covers five years, makes the companies responsible for all of the expenses involved in running the business. Southern has estimated the initial investment will range from $5 million to $7 million.
LSU, which holds the only other state license for medical marijuana authorized by the state Legislature in 2015, has estimated the five-year operating cost of its operation at more than $11 million. LSU recently selected a vendor, GB Sciences Inc. of Nevada, for its program.
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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.
Baton Rouge-based Southern Roots has about 100 investors and had previously secured institutional backing. Columbia Care is based in New York and operates marijuana dispensaries there. Citiva Louisiana is based in Mandeville and headed by businessman John Barry. The company has an alliance with Citiva, a cannabis research and drug development firm based in New York. Citiva Louisiana's investors include Barry, doctors, pharmacists and one venture capitalist, who are putting up all the money for the venture.
Suzette Toledano, one of six AquaPharm representatives who attended Southern's mandatory pre-proposal conference for vendors on May 19, said the New Orleans-based company could not comment now about its details.
United States Hemp Corp. is a Nevada company that says its primary goal is promoting "the cultivation, research and new product development of hemp-based nutraceuticals, industrial goods and consumer goods." The company is a subsidiary of Dewmar International Brand Management Co. Inc., an over-the-counter stock company based in Houston and headed by LSU alum Marco Moran.
However, Moran said Wednesday that his company did not submit an application to Southern, although his firm has advised one of the applicants. Moran said he could not disclose the name of that company. Moran attended the mandatory May 19 vendors conference as a representative of United States Hemp Corp.
Southern officials were not available for comments about the discrepancy.
Med Louisiana is based in Lafayette, according to Louisiana Secretary of State records. The company's registered agent is listed as Charles M. Rush and the listed officer is Ashley A. Hohorst.
Lafayette-based Advanced Biomedics lists Neighbors Pharmacy owner Chad Bodin as its manager and Robin Sylvester as agent.