The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, in partnership with Ilera Holistic Healthcare (Ilera Holistic), became the nation’s first historically Black university (HBCU) to launch its own THC medical cannabis products. The University holds one of two cannabis licenses in the state of Louisiana. The launch of this historic brand, called AYO, comes on the heels of Louisiana’s unprecedented extension in June, 2020, of its own medical marijuana program.
“This is yet another great and historic day for the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center,” said Orlando McMeans, chancellor of the Ag Center. “The goal of this program is to provide quality medicine for the citizens of the state of Louisiana through education, research, and outreach, all of which are included in the mission of the Ag Center. The release of AYO, along with our CBD products, will enable us to help patients better manage their medical issues and improve their quality of life.”
The AYO line joins the ALAFIA product brand, a hemp-derived tincture developed by Southern and Ilera. ALAFIA launched on January 25, 2020, in the Louisiana market, making Southern University the first HBCU producer in both cannabis and hemp. ALAFIA was available online nationwide last summer.
“With the launch of both CBD and THC medical marijuana products, Southern continues to set precedents in innovation,” said Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System. “In addition to providing healthcare options for Louisiana residents, our valued partner, Ilera, is able to hire local talent. All of this impacts our state’s economy directly while expanding the Southern University brand”, Belton added.
Southern’s medical marijuana program is part of the Ag Center’s Southern Institute for Medicinal Plants, helmed by Janana Snowden, the institute’s director and an assistant professor of agriculture at Southern University Baton Rouge. The institute and Ag Center have long researched plants such as hibiscus in addition to cannabis.
“The very important research we conduct on medicinal plants helps us to address health problems that affect communities,” Snowden said. “Our products derived from medicinal plants offer patients another way to alleviate symptoms. we are proud that we can be part of many potential solutions.”
AYO launched at a time when Louisiana expanded laws to potentially allow more patients to choose medical marijuana for treatment. On June 11, 2020, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law ACT No 286, allowing any state-licensed physician to recommend medical marijuana to any of their patients to find relief for any condition.