BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU is moving forward with plans to grow medical marijuana for the state.
Some members of the Baton Rouge Rotary Club were making pot jokes Wednesday afternoon, but LSU Ag Center Vice President Bill Richardson was all business. Richardson is leading the LSU Ag Center's medical marijuana project.
The project was started after the Louisiana Legislature passed a measure in 2015 allowing LSU and Southern University exclusive rights to grow and distribute the product in the state.
Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, some states allow medical use for pain and stress. Medical marijuana was already legal in Louisiana, but no one was allowed to grow and process it until now.
"This is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. We've learned a lot about it in the last several months. And there's a lot of interest in what we're doing in Louisiana. Our operation is strictly pharmaceutical," Richardson said.
Richardson said the plants will be grown off campus in a secure building that has yet to be determined and no students will be involved.
The marijuana will be processed on site into a pill or ointment and then distributed to pharmacies across the state.
Officials with Southern's Ag Center said they will make an announcement about their plans later this year, but LSU is ready to start soon.
This project comes with no state funding, but that also means that the state doesn't see any of the profits. Instead, it will all be reinvested into the research and the LSU Ag Center.
Hampton Grunewald, who handles government relations for the AG Center, said the profits from this project could greatly benefit the center, which has been struggling financially.
"We're operating a statewide agency with 64 parish offices, research stations around the state, with $36 million less than what we had eight to 10 years ago," Grunewald said. "So the intent was try to find a way that we could offset some of our reductions and at the same time benefit some patients in Louisiana with some medical needs."
Richardson said he will have a business plan ready by the end of the month, and he wants to start growing marijuana by January 1.