New Bill Would Remove Louisiana Universities’ Cannabis Cultivation Licenses

Instead, it would allow two private companies to control cultivation throughout the state.
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Since 2015, Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southern University (SU) are the only two public institutions in Louisiana that can legally cultivate medical cannabis. However, if Senate Bill 228 is signed into law, it would allow private contractors to take their place instead.

“They are the only two higher education systems in the country that are in the pot business right now, and it is my belief that it’s time we get them out of that business and let them focus on higher education,” said Sen. Patrick McMath, who is also the sponsor of the bill, told the Louisiana Illuminator.

Apparently, LSU and SU received help from two private growers, Good Day Farm and Ilera Holistic Healthcare, to get their own respective farms operational. If the bill becomes law, LSU and SU would transfer their respective cultivator licenses over to Good Day Farm and Ilera Holistic Healthcare, both of which will be permitted to hold on to their licenses for as long as they choose to renew them. As a result, no other cultivators would be allowed to apply for a license.

According to Louisiana Illuminator, Good Day Farm in particular has a relationship with legislators who may be attempting to control all cultivation within the state. Good Day Farm’s primary shareholder is Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, one of the richest people in the state, and company president John Davis’ wife, Paula Davis, is a House representative.

One of the key people who helped develop legislation for Louisiana’s medical cannabis law, former Rep. Joe Marino, told the news outlet that doing so would create a monopoly on cultivation. 

During his time in office, Marino introduced legislation to expand the number of cultivation licenses available for application, although it didn’t pass. In 2022, he also worked to expand the number of cannabis pharmacies, from 10 to 25, which was signed by former Gov. John Bel Edwards.

In March, McMath attended a committee hearing for SB-228, and claimed that the Louisiana medical cannabis industry was always meant to be private. He explained that including both LSU and SU was a late-hour floor amendment. “It was never really their intention to be put into this bill,” McMath said.

An earlier draft of SB-228 would have still provided a percentage of gross sales from Good Day Farms and Ilera Holistic Healthcare to the universities, but that has since been removed.

SB-228 was sent to Gov. Jeff Landry on May 16 for a signature or veto.

There has been plenty of other cannabis legislation introduced in the most recent legislative session. The Louisiana legislature initially legalized hemp-based edibles containing delta-9-THC back in 2022, with the knowledge presented by former House Speaker Clay Schexnayder who said it would require a person to consume “tractor-trailer loads” for a person to get high from it. Senate Bill 237 attempts to limit the law, and would make it illegal to sell or manufacture any cannabis products containing THC unless it’s included in a license medical cannabis product. During a committee hearing on May 14, many business owners claimed that such a bill would eliminate the consumable hemp industry that has been built so far, as well as any jobs that have developed from its success.

Louisiana Hemp Extractors owner Paige Melancon expressed his frustration about spending the last two years building up his business. “I feel like I’m being fired right now and I want you guys to come with me and fire my employees when we leave here, if you choose to do that,” Melancon said.

Supporters of SB-237 such as lobbyist Gene Mills, president Louisiana Family Forum, also spoke about putting an end to consumable hemp products. “Our vision is to build a Louisiana where God is honored, life is respected, families flourish and liberties reign,” Mills said at the hearing.

Most recently, SB-237 was heard on the House floor for debate on May 22.

Conversely, House Bill 707 seeks to establish a regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis legalization, although it doesn’t outright legalize recreational cannabis. “This is a very simple bill,” said bill sponsor Rep. Edmond Jordan. “What it does…it is for the adult use of cannabis. It sets up the retail side with dispensaries and how we would do that.” If passed, it would permit adults over 21 to purchase one ounce of cannabis per day and pay $75 per year to cultivate up to six plants per adult, or 12 plants per household.

House Bill 978 also would not legalize adult-use cannabis but sought to establish a foundation for legalization in the event that the federal government chose to legalize cannabis. “The bill does not legalize recreational marijuana,” said bill sponsor Rep. Candace Newell. “This is a regulation structure that I would like to see Louisiana put in place in preparation for having recreational marijuana legalized on the federal level or on the state level.” However, as of May 20 the bill was rejected in the House.

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