Southern University’s medical marijuana partner sells first tinctures, topicals to pharmacies

Ilera Holistic Healthcare plans to sell products from its first medical marijuana harvest this week to pharmacies across the state under its license with Southern University.

Ilera holds the medical marijuana contract to grow for Southern University in Baton Rouge and had about 2,300 plants growing at its temporary facility several months ago that’s since been harvested. The products also have passed state tests through the Department of Forestry and Agriculture.

The company is selling tinctures and topicals to pharmacies this week, which should be on shelves soon thereafter.

“We’re shipping this week so in the next two weeks it could be on the shelf, we have orders going out daily,” said Chanda Macias, CEO of Ilera Holistic Healthcare.

The THC brand is Ayo, which in a Nigerian dialect means joy. There are six different tinctures ranging from 300 mg to 600 mg of THC in addition to a THC and hemp-derived blend in 150 mg and 300 mg strength tinctures. The topical cream is a 2-to-1 and 5-to-1 strength of THC and CBD blend.

Ilera expects to open a much larger growing facility along Plank Road, which can hold “tens of thousands” of medical marijuana plants and is about 90% completed. The goal is to be able to produce enough medical marijuana for between 1% and 3% of the state population.

It’s been several years since Southern University received state approval for its medical marijuana program, as did LSU, whose corporate affiliate started producing and distributing products last year. In late 2018, Ilera bought the majority stake in the first company selected by Southern to run its program after various delays in the project.

By the end of the third quarter, Ilera expects to roll out THC tincture formulas for children or minors with autism, known as Hope. It’s working on chewable gelatin-based medicine and concentrated THC extracts as well.

The wholesale prices of the products were not disclosed, but some products would cost less than $100 potentially but the final prices depend on the pharmacies, Macias said. “I made sure we had price reductions across the board.”

Ilera started selling over-the-counter CBD tinctures made from hemp at the state’s marijuana dispensaries in January. The company has hired four new workers in the past few months and expects to hire up to 40 individuals by the end of the year.

Southern University touts that it is the only Historically Black College and University to have a medical marijuana and CBD-derived program in the country.

Southern University plans to use money from the sale of the products to hire more scientists to begin research into the active ingredients in marijuana. The researchers are expected to develop new varieties of marijuana with different concentrations of cannabidiol, the active ingredient in marijuana that treats pain, insomnia and anxiety, and THC, the primary cannabidiol found in the plant.

Access to medical marijuana usage in Louisiana was recently broadened to include any debilitating condition determined by doctors licensed in the state. It was previously available only to patients with qualifying conditions who were able to get recommendations from a select permitted pool of doctors. Medical marijuana manufacturers are bullish that a larger potential patient population could better sustain two operators even without what is known as a flower market, which is when raw marijuana is sold directly to customers.

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