Southern medical marijuana

The first crop of medical marijuana grown at Southern University will be harvested next week, and products made with the crop should be sold in Louisiana dispensaries in the next month or two, the head of the school’s agriculture department said Monday.

The first crop of medical marijuana grown for Southern University's program will be harvested next week, and products made with the crop should be sold in Louisiana dispensaries in the next month or two, the head of the school’s agriculture department said Monday.

“It’s been a little slow, but we think we have things moving in the right direction,” Orlando McMeans, chancellor-dean of the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center told the Baton Rouge Press Club at its weekly meeting.

Ilera Holistic Healthcare, the company partnered with Southern to grow medical marijuana, has 2,300 plants growing at a facility in Baker. Southern experienced years of delays in getting its marijuana program off the ground. Ilera bought out the majority stake in the original company selected by Southern in late 2018 after the firm made little progress.

“We had some challenges in that area, but our relationship with Ilera is off to a decent start,” McMeans said. “We have some successes to be proud of.”

Last month, Ilera started selling over-the-counter CBD tinctures at the state’s marijuana dispensaries and nationwide. This made Southern the first historically black university to launch a line of CBD products, McMeans said.

Medical marijuana products grown under the auspices of the LSU AgCenter have been available since early August, and the firm licensed by LSU also is getting into CBD products.

McMeans said he was going to meet with Bill Richardson, dean of the LSU College of Agriculture, Monday afternoon to discuss ways of getting more efficient in processing marijuana.

“They’ve had the same challenges we are having,” he said. “I want to see if they are in the position of sharing how they are addressing those same issues.”

The goal is to get beyond just producing medical marijuana products and to start doing research. Southern will use some of the proceeds from its contract with Ilera to hire three plant scientists. The first two will be hired in March.

“We want to start the research part this summer,” he said. The researchers will look at developing new varieties of marijuana with different concentrations of cannabidiol, the active ingredient in marijuana that may treat pain, insomnia and anxiety, and THC, the primary cannabidiol found in the plant.

Along with the marijuana production and research, McMeans said there’s a third component Southern needs to address — outreach. “We need to dispel the myth of what we are growing marijuana for,” he said. “It’s for a variety of medical uses that I wasn’t even aware of.”


Email Timothy Boone at tboone@theadvocate.com.