Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication to include comments from Southern University.
A dispute among the shareholders of a Lafayette firm selected to grow medical marijuana for Southern University could result in a potential lawsuit against the university.
Members of Advanced Biomedics want a judge to stop Southern University from terminating its contract as the grower for the school’s medical marijuana program.
The lawsuit is expected to be filed today in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge after a similar pleading was filed in Lafayette last month.
According to the legal documents, a minority owner of Advanced Biomedics negotiated and signed a contract with Southern University without a majority vote of the company’s other members.
The firm says the university is now trying to force its other members to sign the contract and is threatening to terminate its relationship with the company if they refuse by the Friday deadline. The company is asking a judge to grant an injunction against the institution.
Southern University is not named as a party in the Lafayette lawsuit, which pits Advanced Biomedics LLC against Chad Bodin of Lafayette. The university in a statement says it is aware of the company’s internal dispute and several reports of the pending Baton Rouge lawsuit.
The university says it has nothing to do with the original dispute, which it became aware of after negotiating the contract, and cannot indefinitely delay its medical marijuana program.
“It is our hope that Advanced Biomedics can resolve their conflict and sign the contract, which is based upon the terms of their proposal to the University,” the statement reads. “… It is imperative that we proceed with this groundbreaking program with or without our initially chosen vendor so that Louisiana residents receive the treatment they so desperately need.”
The university admits that its counsel informed Advanced Biomedics on April 27 that the company would have until Friday, May 4, to execute the deal or the school would negotiate with an alternate vendor.
The Southern University and LSU Ag Centers are the state’s only authorized producers of medical marijuana. In September, Southern picked Advanced Biomedics to grow its medical marijuana, offering a five-year contract worth more than $6 million. The pending lawsuit alleges the minority shareholder—identified as Bodin— has since renegotiated the contract with terms unfavorable to the company.
Advanced Biomedics LLC is registered to Bodin, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State. However, the legal documents allege he only holds a 25.5% interest in the company.
A separate Secretary of State filing identifies Carol Castille as the registered agent of the Advanced Biomedics Holdings LLC, which was left of out of the contract negotiations, according to legal documents. Jade Andrus, a Lafayette attorney representing ABH and Castille, could not be reached before today’s publication deadline.
Robin Sylvester, an attorney for Bodin, disputes the ABH’s claims in the documents. She says Castille and ABH never made capital investments to purchase membership in the company and are not members of Advanced Biomedics. Bodin, she says, is not a minority shareholder and is authorized to negotiate with the university.