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Southern University launches hemp product line, becomes first HBCU to legally market marijuana

In partnership with Ilera Holistic Healthcare, the university launched ALAFIA last week, hoping to help destigmatize cannabis.
Image: Admin building on Southern University campus
Administrative building on the SOuthern University campus.Southern University

Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has entered the cannabis industry, making history as the first historically black college or university to join the legal marijuana business.

In partnership with Ilera Holistic Healthcare, a medical marijuana company in Pennsylvania, the university launched its hemp product line, ALAFIA, last week. The name means “inner peace” in the Yoruba language, according to the team behind the product.

The product draws on the purported medical benefits of CBD, an active component of cannabis. ALAFIA’s researchers hope the partnership will provide students and residents of the state opportunities to learn about the benefits.

“Our overall goals are to continue providing experiential learning opportunities for our students who plan to enter into this rapidly evolving industry and to also provide education to the constituents of Louisiana in efforts to destigmatize this medical plant,” said the lead researcher, Janana Snowden, executive director of the university’s Southern Institute for Medicinal Plants.

CBD products have become increasingly popular in recent years, popping up on shelves in oil, extract, vaping and capsule forms. Although THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, remains illegal in many states, CBD has been legalized nationwide.

As the largest HBCU in Louisiana, Southern University has served students of color for over 200 years. Speaking of the partnership, President Ray Belton said the university was leading the way.

“This is an exciting time for healthcare and business here in the state of Louisiana, and Southern University is honored to be a part of it all,” Belton said in a statement last week. “Southern has been a leader in agriculture and the sciences for 140 years while staying true to its mission of access. This CBD venture with Ilera encompasses all of that. We look forward to advancing this vision and serving as a model for other universities.”