BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU is moving ahead with growing medical marijuana.
The Board of Supervisors gave the LSU Ag Center the go-ahead Thursday to start negotiations with Las Vegas-based company, GB Sciences, about growing medical marijuana in partnership with the university.
John Poss, CEO of GB Sciences, says he's hopeful the relationship will allow his company to jump-start research. "Cannabis is a plant whose mysteries are just now being unlocked and we are at the forefront of unlocking those mysteries," Poss told the board.
The company beat out six other potential contractors for the spot, but their nomination did not happen without some push back.
Kenneth Perego with CB Medical, the other finalist for the contract, lead the charge in questioning whether GB Sciences has the money to do the job. As part of the arrangement with LSU, the company would pay the Ag Center almost $6 million over five years. Some of that money would go to research.
A recent financial report shows GB Sciences lost about $28 million since first forming several years ago.
"It is fiscally irresponsible for them to be able to commit that much money to LSU. They will fail in this project and that's of grave concern because we want LSU to be successful," said Perego.
Poss says those concerns are baseless and he has a number of investors lined up ready to help his company do business with the university. "We have plenty of money. We'll be able to satisfy the board, we'll be able to satisfy all of our detractors," Poss said. "We're financially sound, we're financially capable."
The head of the LSU Ag Center says he is "comfortable" with the choice.
"It went through the entire thing, they came out on top," said Dr. Bill Richardson. "We're just not turning this over to a vendor and saying send us a check."
Even so, the board of supervisors made it clear that they will continue to look at the financial health of GB Sciences while negotiations proceed.
Under current law, only LSU and Southern can legally grow pot, which can be turned into cannabis oil and other medicines. The facility where the plant is grown would not be located on LSU property and students under 21 would not be allowed to work there.
If all goes well with negotiations, Richardson says marijuana products could be available by sometime next spring.