BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Southern University is one step closer to firing up a plan to launch a medical marijuana operation. Ag Center leaders announced Thursday that they are offering a five-year contract to a single vendor to get the plan rolling.
"They will be bidding on the opportunity to work with Southern and the production, the manufacturing and dispensing of these products," Dr. Bobby Phills, chancelor-dean of the Southern Ag Center said.
Before the project can move forward, Southern officials say it's important to educate the public and remove any negative stereotypes the community may have on the plan, starting with how the drug will be used.
"Dispelling these myths, telling people what this stuff would actually be used for, and letting them know that we're serious about this, that it'll be restricted in how we use it, I think will make the community feel a little bit better," Dr. Rani Whitfield said.
From seed to sale, the plant will only be used for medical purposes. The university said through its partnership with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, they will focus on research, producing the drug in pill, patch, and oil forms, which they say can help patients coping with certain diseases.
"We're seeing benefits in treating brain tumors, in different types of cancers," Whitfield said. "There's some anti-tumor properties that are found in the cannabinoids and the chemicals that are found in the marijuana plant."
The facility is set to be built about five miles off campus at Southern's Agriculture Experiment Station and will be off limits to students, another perception school leaders are addressing head on. "We don't want students to actually have direct access to the marijuana facility. We don't want that whole perception out," Dr. Janana Snowden added.
One of two universities in the state being trusted with this research, Southern officials say they are excited about the opportunity and the potential benefits.
"It's something that's designed to provide medical relief for those ailments for the citizens of Louisiana and we're just proud to be a part of that," Phills said.
Southern University will open applications for potential vendors next month and hopes to make a decision by this summer.