Louisiana University Gains Approval to Conduct Cannabis Research and Testing

A bill passed by state lawmakers allows the School of Pharmacy at the University of Louisiana Monroe to conduct research into cannabis and hemp and provide lab testing services to the medical marijuana industry.
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The University of Louisiana Monroe School of Pharmacy has gained the approval to conduct cannabis testing and research under legislation passed last month by state lawmakers. Under the bill from state Representative Mike Echols, ULM will become the third university in Louisiana authorized to perform research into cannabis and hemp.

“Louisiana State University and Southern University have been the only two schools in the state that can do research around hemp and marijuana but not anymore,” Echols said. “We were able to add to some of the bills flowing through the process to give ULM the opportunity to do some of that strategic research.”

The legislation also allows the School of Pharmacy to provide lab testing services for purity and potency to the state’s medical cannabis industry. Echols said that his bill amends Louisiana’s medical marijuana statute to allow the university to provide laboratory testing services and study new applications for cannabis and hemp.

“They have the School of Pharmacy at ULM, the state’s only publicly-funded school of pharmacy…and so there was a real key relationship between some of the products that are being produced out there now, and the new pharmaceutical products that could be produced. We wanted ULM to have a chance to do some research in that space,” he explained.

Echols said that the facility will create new jobs at ULM and up to $1 million in revenue from testing services alone, with research into new applications for cannabis and hemp providing additional economic opportunities.

“Now, as far as pharmaceutical research goes, if they are able to find new drugs and new potential for that particular strain then there’s … unlimited potential,” Echols told local media.

New 20-Acre Research Facility To Be Built

ULM’s cannabis testing and research operations will be carried out at a 20-acre facility that is a collaboration between the School of Pharmacy and the non-profit Biomedical Research and Innovation Park (BRIP). The new research park will provide a home for hemp and cannabis research and testing services and other scientific enterprises. BRIP board member Susan Nicholson noted that while the project is in the early planning stages, developers expect the new research facility will require about $35 million in funding. The engineering and construction phase of the park is scheduled to begin early next year.

“The endgame is to try and work with researchers at ULM College of Pharmacy to build a number of facilities to enhance what we have at the school of pharmacy facility with biomedical developments,” said Nicholson. “That is when we will begin mapping out the road system for the facility, which is where we’ll be starting first. It should happen fairly quickly.”

The new facility will position the ULM School of Pharmacy to conduct state-of-the-art cannabis research, which Nicholson says is expanding nationwide.

“There are too many positive potential usages in various drug protocols to pass up,” she said. “The discoveries that are being made in hemp and marijuana research about its uses and proven medical benefits are too great not to move forward.”

Dr. Ray Armstrong, another BRIP board member, said that hemp is a very versatile resource, with companies interested in exploring applications including fiber and hempcrete, which he said is “even stronger and lighter than concrete.”

Echol’s bill requires the state to conduct oversight of the universities conducting cannabis research and the partners they collaborate with.

“The contractor selected by the licensed university through a competitive bid process to cultivate, extract, process, produce and transport therapeutic marijuana shall be subject to oversight and inspections by the Louisiana Department of Health,” reads the text of the legislation.

Under the legislation, the health department’s oversight responsibilities include requirements for the inspection of research facilities, inventory reporting, security and compliance with state building, plumbing, and electrical codes.

Echols’ legislation, House Bill 697, was passed by the Louisiana state legislature and signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards in June. The bill goes into effect on August 1.

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