Louisiana's state agriculture department on Thursday offered to give LSU permission to expand its medical marijuana-growing operations if its contractor meets certain conditions related to the regulatory process.
Under the agreement, which has not yet been signed, LSU and its contractor, GB Sciences Louisiana, would be allowed to move "plant material" into the vegetative room and mother room of its production facility in south Baton Rouge.
GB Sciences is currently operating in a smaller "pod" facility and has not moved into the main facility because it has not won full regulatory approvals from the state agriculture department. The endeavor has been delayed several times, keeping marijuana from reaching patients several years after the state legalized the program.
GB Sciences and LSU have for months battled with the agriculture department over the regulatory process.
"After careful consideration and in an effort to get the product to the pharmacies for the citizens of Louisiana, the commissioner of agriculture and forestry has decided to grant LSU AgCenter the authority to move plant material into the requested rooms," Tabitha Irvin, director of the medical marijuana program for the Louisiana Department Agriculture and Forestry, wrote in a letter Thursday.
"Please note that the permit for full operation will not be issued until completion of suitability," she added.
It was not immediately clear if LSU and GB Sciences would agree to the terms of the deal. GB Sciences referred requests for comment to the LSU AgCenter, which said it received the proposed agreement at the same time as the media and needed time to review it.
The proposed memorandum of understanding came in response to a request by LSU to move into the two rooms of the main facility, which is a former Pepsi distribution center off Highland Road in south Baton Rouge.
That request on Wednesday sought permission to move plants into the two rooms on Friday. Ashley Mullens, LSU AgCenter's coordinator, wrote in the letter that no "substantive issues" in the ongoing suitability investigation has been brought to its attention.
"We are simply requesting temporary authorization from the department to move plant material into the Veg Room and Mother Room of the main facility to avoid the continued unnecessary destruction of existing plant material while LSP (Louisiana State Police) completes its work," Mullens wrote. "Further, the delay by the department in approving this authorization impedes product from reaching patients and upsets the supply chain."
The agriculture department and GB Sciences have been at odds over the regulatory requirements for the marijuana growing project. Earlier this month, LSU asked the agriculture department to let it move plant material into the production area of the main facility "immediately."
A suitability study is ongoing to determine whether GB Sciences will be allowed to move forward with the project.
The agreement outlined Thursday would require GB Sciences to respond to Louisiana State Police's suitability requests within seven business days or file a written extension request. It would also deem the LSU AgCenter fully responsible for the firm's "actions regarding the completion of the necessary requirements for suitability," and would give the agriculture department the ability to close operations of the facility if the deal is broken.