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Medical marijuana grown by LSU AgCenter partner GB Sciences at a facility in south Baton Rouge will be tested by the AgCenter and state agriculture department at a lab on the LSU campus.

GB Sciences Louisiana, the company LSU has contracted with for its medical marijuana program, said Tuesday cultivation is in full operation with the LSU Agricultural Center, which received its first annual research investment grant of $500,000.

The investment is being put toward a program that is studying the use of oil derived from marijuana and hemp plants in the treatment of epilepsy.

GB Sciences said its full operations follow two smaller harvests at a “proof of concept” facility, which showed the company could meet state requirements for medical marijuana. This will be the first full-scale crop, which increases GB Sciences’ Louisiana production capacity by 500%.

Liz Bianco, a spokeswoman for GB Sciences, said the company expects the first medical marijuana products will reach the shelves of Louisiana dispensaries in May. But Ashley Mullens, coordinator of external and governmental affairs for the AgCenter, said the Department of Agriculture and Forestry has to approve the final formulations of nonsmokable medical marijuana before they will be released to nine state-approved pharmacies for patients. So Mullens said it isn't known when the products will be available.

The company needed access to its larger facility to allow for a perpetual harvest cycle, ensuring a continuous supply of medical marijuana for patients with qualifying conditions, such as HIV, cancer, seizures, epilepsy, Crohn's disease and multiple sclerosis. The main production facility in a former Pepsi distribution center in south Baton Rouge has more than five times the production capacity of the exterior facility that GB Sciences Louisiana has been operating.

As part of GB Sciences’ contract with the state to produce medical marijuana, it will give the AgCenter a share of revenue and make an annual research investment.

The first $500,000 went to Chris Green, an AgCenter researcher who is studying the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, oil to treat epilepsy. CBD comes from the flowers and buds of marijuana and hemp plants but does not produce intoxication.

Green is giving CBD oil to zebrafish, using a model he spent the past two years developing. Zebrafish are good animals to test the oil on because they’re small and don’t need much CBD in their bloodstreams; they’re inexpensive; and the fish have some of same receptors in their brains as humans.

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Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.