New Bill Would Remove Louisiana Universities’ Cannabis Cultivation Licenses

by | Cannabis Times

 in a prescription

Louisiana’s Pot Business: Time to Let the Private Contractors Take Over?

Since 2015, Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southern University (SU) have been the only two public institutions in the state legally allowed to cultivate medical cannabis. But that could soon change if Senate Bill 228 is signed into law, as it would open the door for private contractors to take over.

According to Sen. Patrick McMath, the sponsor of the bill, “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.” McMath shared this with the Louisiana Illuminator, a news outlet covering the state’s politics and policies.

Currently, LSU and SU have received assistance from two private growers, Good Day Farm and Ilera Holistic Healthcare, to establish their own farms. However, if the bill becomes law, these universities would transfer their cultivator licenses to the private contractors, who would then be allowed to hold onto them for as long as they choose to renew.

This would effectively create a monopoly on cultivation, as no other cultivators would be allowed to apply for a license. According to the Louisiana Illuminator, Good Day Farm has close ties with legislators who may be attempting to control all cultivation within the state. The company’s primary shareholder is Donald “Boysie” Bollinger, one of the richest people in Louisiana, and its president’s wife, Paula Davis, is a House representative.

Former Rep. Joe Marino, who played a key role in developing Louisiana’s medical cannabis law, expressed concerns about this potential monopoly. He told the news outlet that it would limit competition and potentially drive up prices for patients. During his time in office, Marino introduced legislation to expand the number of cultivation licenses available for application, but it did not pass. He also worked to increase the number of cannabis pharmacies in the state, which was signed into law by former Gov. John Bel Edwards in 2022.

In March, McMath attended a committee hearing for SB-228 and stated that the Louisiana medical cannabis industry was always intended to be private. He explained that including LSU and SU in the cultivation process was a last-minute amendment. “It was never really their intention to be put into this bill,” McMath said.

An earlier version of SB-228 included a provision for a percentage of gross sales from Good Day Farm and Ilera Holistic Healthcare to be given to the universities. However, this has since been removed.

The bill was sent to Gov. Jeff Landry on May 16 for a signature or veto. This is just one of many cannabis-related bills introduced in the most recent legislative session. In 2022, the Louisiana legislature legalized hemp-based edibles containing delta-9-THC, with former House Speaker Clay Schexnayder claiming that it would take “tractor-trailer loads” for someone to get high from them. However, Senate Bill 237 aims to restrict this law and make it illegal to sell or manufacture any cannabis products containing THC unless it is prescribed by a doctor. Will the private contractors take over the pot business in Louisiana? Only time will tell.