Medical marijuana project details discussed at LSU AgCenter forum

Olivia McClure  |  10/31/2016 1:39:13 PM

(10/28/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – The state-mandated initiative to grow marijuana and process it for medical purposes will need at least $11 million in private funding to get off the ground, and it will be at least 18 months before any product sales are made, according to a project concept recently released by the LSU AgCenter.

Details of the project were unveiled Friday (Oct. 28) at a public forum on the LSU campus.

The LSU AgCenter recently opted in to be licensed by the state as the official production facility for medical marijuana, per a law the Louisiana Legislature passed in 2015. The law, known as the Alison Neustrom Act, allows people with qualifying illnesses to obtain a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.

Louisiana is one of 25 states, plus the District of Columbia, with laws that provide protocols for medical marijuana production and use.

“The LSU AgCenter is excited about developing a medical grade product that will help people manage their medical issues,” said LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson.

No state funds will be used in the program. A private entity – which has not yet been selected – will finance and carry out the operation through an agreement with the AgCenter.

The operation will eventually have several employees, including horticulturalists, chemists and lab technicians, according to the project concept document.

The operation will require a budget of about $1.3 million for its first year. Projections in the plan show that expenses are expected to exceed revenues until at least 2020.

Sales of a medical marijuana product in 2018 could be as low as $727,000 and as high as $2.4 million. By 2024, sales could reach anywhere between $13.1 million and $20.1 million.

A 10-milligram dose of medical marijuana will cost about $2.95, according to the document. But sales of a final product are unlikely before 2018.

According to the document, an estimated 1,441, or .25 percent, of the 576,520 Louisiana residents living with certain conditions – HIV, cancer, wasting syndrome, spasticity, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Crohn’s disease and epilepsy – could use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

“The process will take a raw plant and extract oils to create a final, medical-grade product,” Richardson said.

AgCenter officials believe the most cost-effective approach would be to renovate an existing off-campus warehouse to be used as an indoor growing and laboratory facility outfitted with lights, irrigation equipment and a security system. A space of 15,000 square feet will be needed to meet Louisiana’s demands. Renovation is estimated to cost about $6 million, the document says.

There will be tight security at the facility, and production and formulation will adhere to strict guidelines set by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Louisiana Board of Pharmacy. Off-duty law enforcement officers will secure the facility, which will also be under video surveillance, at all times.

More information on the medical marijuana initiative, including the project concept, is posted online at www.lsuagcenter.com/agmedical.

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LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson talks about the medical marijuana project at a forum in Baton Rouge on Oct. 28. Photo by Olivia McClure

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The audience at an LSU AgCenter forum on medical marijuana listens to LSU Vice President for Agriculture Bill Richardson discuss the project. Photo by Olivia McClure

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