- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A proposal to give the state agriculture department a 7 percent cut of medical marijuana sales advanced Thursday in the Louisiana Legislature.

The bill by Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, includes a list of fees the agriculture department would charge the medicinal plant’s state-sanctioned grower, including a $100,000 annual incense fee and a $10,000 application fee. In addition, the department would receive 7 percent of the sales revenue.

Under Louisiana’s medical marijuana law, the state will have one sanctioned grower and 10 licensed distributors. LSU and Southern University get first right of refusal. If both schools decline, a public bidding process is opened.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain is pushing the fee bill, saying he doesn’t have the money to do the required inspections, lab testing and oversight without new money. He estimates the work will cost his agency between $500,000 and $750,000 a year.

“We’re not trying to make a cash cow of this,” Strain said. “We think this is what this costs.”

Some questioned whether the 7 percent carve-out could make it harder to find a medical marijuana grower. Danny Ford, representing the Louisiana Cannabis Association, said the group didn’t object to Strain charging fees for regulation and inspection.

But he added: “We just feel 7 percent is very excessive.”

Despite the concerns, the House Agriculture Committee advanced the bill without objection, sending it to the full House for consideration.

Strain estimates it will be two to three years before Louisiana starts dispensing medical marijuana.

___

Online:

House Bill 1099: www.legis.la.gov


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