Will LSU and Southern Start Growing Weed?

Under Louisiana’s recently enacted medical marijuana law, LSU and Southern University AgCenters will get the first crack to grow so-called medical marijuana. But The Advocate reports there could be a small complication, Federal law.

Under a new law the Legislature approved earlier this year, the AgCenters were granted the first right of refusal to hold a state-sanctioned monopoly on production of legal medical marijuana. The monopoly would go by public bid to a single provider if the universities refuse.

Designating the two facilities makes some sense. Who better than the two centers to research a new Louisiana crop, select the best varieties for the state’s soils and climate, and figure out the best methods to extract the components of cannabis thought to be beneficial?

But drug policy experts, advocates, university marijuana researchers and those who track the states’ marijuana legalization efforts say having public universities grow and refine marijuana for commercial medical use to the extent Louisiana’s new law anticipates is unprecedented.

LSU and Southern, as publicly funded institutions, would be entering a legal gray area that could risk their federal research funding.

The deal is that weed is still illegal under Federal law. It’s classified as Schedule I, which means there are no recognized medicinal purposes for the drug. Whether or not marijuana needs to be rescheduled under Federal law is a topic for another day. We need to take the law as it is now.

Both universities could lose all their Federal funding if they start growing weed. Now the Obama administration has not shown a willingness to enforce marijuana related sanctions, but another administration could reverse that policy.

Next year, the Legislature should take out the language requiring the weed be grown at universities and open it up to more than one private bidder.

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