Leaders at Southern University and LSU say that a new state law intended to pave the way for medical marijuana in Louisiana will need to be tweaked before they move ahead with any plans to grow it.
“The bill is very limited in the way it’s structured,” Adell Brown, vice chancellor of research at Southern University’s Agriculture Center told university leaders Friday.
A week earlier, LSU’s Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson shared his similar apprehension with the LSU Board of Supervisors.
“There is a lot more unknown than there is known,” Richardson said. “We are not ready to start growing anything.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Louisiana for more than two decades, but no one’s been able to legally use it because the state never established a framework for the distribution or cultivation of the plant, which remains a Schedule One narcotic in the eyes of the federal government.
Under the law legislators adopted earlier this year, 10 pharmacy locations would be licensed across the state to dispense marijuana to patients suffering from glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia or symptoms related to chemotherapy cancer treatment if they had a prescription from a doctor.
LSU and Southern were inserted into the legislation as potential cultivators to allay concerns over the measure.
But the move could come at a cost to the universities because growing marijuana could threaten the schools’ federal research funding.
State Sen. Fred Mills, a Republican from Parks and the law’s chief sponsor, said that he expected that there would be some setbacks, and he plans to renew discussions after the legislative and gubernatorial elections.
“I always anticipated that we’d have to tweak it,” he said. “I see it as something that we do, but I’m always optimistic.”
Mills said he thinks that people remain apprehensive about it because of federal regulations.
“I think it’s the unknown right now,” he said. “The goal is to work on some ideas that can put some fears aside.”
He previously told The Advocate, that LSU and Southern came as a compromise with the Jindal administration and law enforcement.
Gov. Bobby Jindal later said his administration had no concerns with the legislation, and he signed it.
“There are a lot of questions that people didn’t think about asking,” Richardson said. “There’s a lot of people out there who don’t know anything about growing marijuana who will tell you a whole lot about growing it.”
Brown said the law doesn’t comply with the federal government, which still regulates marijuana as a controlled substance.
He said he doubts that doctors would prescribe it, without changes to the state law.
“I think what you’ll see in the next legislative session is some language that will clean up the bill to make it operational,” he said.