LSU fires back in cannabis flap, calls Strain’s accusations reckless, untrue

(Daily Advertiser)- LSU AgCenter Vice President Bill Richardson on Friday, March 8, 2019, fired back at Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, calling Strain’s accusation that LSU is breaking the law by expanding its medical marijuana program “untrue” and “reckless.”

It’s the latest volley in an escalating feud between LSU AgCenter and Strain over the state’s fledgling cannabis program.

“Commissioner Strain made reckless and unsupported public accusations against the LSU AgCenter and GB Sciences Louisiana (LSU’s private partner) and threatened litigation,” Richardson said in a statement. “The allegations made by Commissioner Strain are simply untrue.”

The LSU AgCenter and Southern University AgCenter are the only ones who can legally grow the cannabis and produce the medicine, but Strain is the regulator who must sign off on their ability to proceed.

Though medical cannabis has been legal for years, it has yet to reach pharmacies and patients because of regulatory hurdles for LSU and its private partner GB Sciences. Southern’s program lags LSU because of early issues with its original private partner.

LSU contends Strain’s agency granted permission last week to proceed with moving the first crop from a small temporary growing pod into the main facility, but Strain said the move was based on a proposed contract with conditions that LSU refused to sign.

“They’ve fought the law every step of the way,” Strain said Monday in an exclusive interview with USA Today Network. “We’ve sent them a notice that they’re in violation of the law and we’ll proceed to a (court hearing).

“It’s crystal clear the movement of the plants was contingent on signing the memorandum of understanding,” said Strain, who said LSU AgCenter has resisted oversight from the beginning.

Richadson said the written offer from Strain to move the plants wasn’t reliant on signing the memorandum of understanding, insisting that was separate from the permission to move the plants.

“Relying on this written approval from the LDAF, the LSU AgCenter moved plant material into the two specific rooms on Friday, March 1, 2019,” Richards said. “The following Monday, an LDAF inspector issued a deficiency notice to the LSU AgCenter for doing what Commissioner Strain expressly approved the week before.”

Richardson said patients are suffering while he contends Strain is unnecessarily dragging his feet.

“Commissioner Strain’s actions are preventing thousands of patients from receiving the medical relief that they are anxiously awaiting and deserve,” Richardson said. “The LSU AgCenter calls on Commissioner Mike Strain to immediately allow this program to proceed, so that the patients of Louisiana can receive the medicine to which they are legally entitled.”

Strain has said LSU and GB Sciences are resisting providing information to Louisiana State Police for a required “suitability study,” or extensive background check that must be complete before Strain gives his blessing.

“Nothing is being done to hinder production of medical marijuana,” Strain said Friday in a statement. “The reason for issuing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to allow LSU AgCenter, the licensee, to supervise its subcontractor, GBSL, during hours of operation at the facility until the suitability determination is approved.

“LSU, the licensee, is deemed suitable by law, but GBSL, the subcontractor, is not. Suitability, as required by law, includes but is not limited to criminal, civil and financial background checks. In accordance with the MOU, LSU can supervise GBSL, the subcontractor, until the suitability process is completed and approved by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF).

“As of now, LSU-GBSL is not in compliance. 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 (Mother room and Vegetative room) by signing the MOU which was clearly a requirement as noted in the original letter dated February 28, 2019.”

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