LSU is batting back allegations it broke the law when expanding its medical marijuana program, calling Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain's comments "reckless" and "unsupported" and claiming it had written approval to expand.
LSU Vice President for Agriculture William Richardson, in a statement Friday, claimed a Feb. 28 letter from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry included "written approval" to expand the medical marijuana growing operations in south Baton Rouge along with LSU's contractor, GB Sciences.
The agriculture department, which regulates Louisiana's two marijuana growers, proposed a deal in late February that would allow LSU and GB Sciences to move into two rooms of their production facility in south Baton Rouge, outlining several conditions LSU and GB Sciences would have to adhere to in the regulatory process.
LSU rejected the proposal, but went forward with the expansion. Soon after, the agriculture department sent an inspector to the facility and accused the school of breaking the law by expanding without signing onto the deal.
The dispute is expected to go before a hearing officer.
"The allegations made by Commissioner Strain are simply untrue," Richardson said. "Commissioner Strain's actions are preventing thousands of patients from receiving the medical relief that they are anxiously awaiting and deserve."
Strain responded Friday in a statement that the proposed deal clearly stated LSU and GB Sciences can proceed with expanding its marijuana program while awaiting suitability approvals, but only if it signed onto the memorandum of understanding.
“Nothing is being done to hinder production of medical marijuana," Strain said.
"As of now, LSU-GBSL is not in compliance," he added. "Again, the LDAF cannot give LSU-GBSL the authority to break the law. However, LSU-GBSL can be in compliance to only move plant material into the requested rooms … by signing the MOU which was clearly a requirement as noted in the original letter dated February 28, 2019."
The agriculture department also again released the correspondence between the two sides, including the proposed memorandum of understanding, to support its position.
The agriculture department has battled publicly for months with LSU and GB Sciences over the regulatory process, which has been delayed numerous times. Medical marijuana has still not reached state-approved pharmacies' shelves, years after the program was legalized.
A suitability investigation into GB Sciences is still ongoing, and the agriculture department has said the company has repeatedly failed to provide the information needed for the investigation. GB Sciences and LSU have accused the agency of failing to properly communicate what information is needed.