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.

While Southern University has not yet gotten its medical marijuana operation off the ground in Louisiana, the company partnered with the school has begun selling over-the-counter CBD tinctures at eight of the state’s nine marijuana pharmacies.

Ilera Holistic Healthcare, the company partnered with Southern to grow medical marijuana, said Tuesday the CBD, or Cannabidiol, products will be sold nationwide, including at each marijuana pharmacy in Louisiana except for the one in Monroe.

“We’ll be the first university in the United States to do a national CBD launch,” said Ilera CEO Chanda Macias.

The CBD tinctures, branded as Alafia Healthcare, were made from hemp and were formulated in a North Carolina facility for shipment to retailers in Louisiana, Macias said. She declined to say when the firm will begin selling marijuana-based products here, but said it will hit the market “very soon” and that the firm has 2,300 plants growing at a facility in Baker. Southern has 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. 

The four types of CBD tincture bottles will range from $40 to $80 suggested retail price, Macias said.

The CBD products Ilera is selling contain 0.3% or less of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and as such won’t get users high. The federal farm bill in 2018 legalized the sale and distribution of hemp-derived CBD products, which sellers and users claim have health benefits, and Louisiana adopted a regulatory system for the products last year. Eight of the state’s nine marijuana pharmacies have received permits from the state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control to sell Ilera’s over-the-counter products.

The products are not technically part of the state’s medical marijuana program. While LSU’s marijuana partner, Wellcana, is currently selling CBD and marijuana tinctures across the state, those products come from marijuana plants and have more than 0.3% of THC.

Southern and Ilera officials will host a press event to tout the new products at H&W Drug Store, the medical marijuana pharmacy in the New Orleans region, on Thursday.

Ruston Henry, the owner of H&W, said the over-the-counter products are useful for a “variety” of conditions, including joint discomfort, insomnia and anxiety. But, he said, the products are “not nearly as potent as the prescription ones,” which contain THC.

Federal regulators have warned sellers against marketing their CBD products as treatment for health conditions. 

Farmers across the state have looked to hemp as a potential new source of revenue in Louisiana, especially in areas stricken by bad weather and the Trump administration’s trade war with China. State agriculture regulators have said they hope to begin licensing farmers to grow hemp in February, and Macias said Ilera hopes to partner with Louisiana farmers to develop CBD products in the future.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com