MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — Wednesday, July 6, 2022, The Ouachita Citizen or Hanna Pub reported the University of Louisiana Monroe’s (ULM) School of Pharmacy became one of three schools in Louisiana that are now legally authorized to perform research on marijuana and hemp. Louisiana State University Agricultural Center and Southern University Agricultural Center are the two other schools able to study the plants.

According to Louisiana State Representative of District 14 Michael Echols, the legislation he sponsored during the 2022 Legislative Session, House Bill 697, made the change possible.

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. 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.

Louisiana State Representative of District 14 Michael Echols

University of Louisiana Monroe’s capability to study marijuana and hemp could provide more chances for economic development. The Ouachita Citizen reported the Biomedical Research and Innovation Park (BRIP) is a nonprofit organization. BRIP collaborated with the University of Louisiana Monroe intending to occupy a new facility near ULM’s College of Pharmacy building on Tower Drive.

Susan Nicholson is a BRIP board member.

According to Nicholson, the 20-acre research park could hold any marijuana and hemp research lab work and other research enterprises. Nicholson reported even though the Biomedical facility is in its early planning stage, developers expected the project to require $35 million for funding. Developers scheduled the park’s engineering and construction phase to start in early 2023.

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. 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.

Biomedical Research and Innovation Park Board Member Susan Nicholson

Marijuana and hemp research is expanding nationwide, according to Nicholson.

“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 is also a BRIP board member.

According to Dr. Armstrong, a company he did not want to identify is debating on researching hemp fiber processing to make creative resources. He suggested hemp is a “very diverse” material, and people could make “hempcrete” or “hemplime,” that is, “even stronger and lighter than concrete.”

According to state law, regulations and guidelines are involved with marijuana and hemp research.

“Those guidelines don’t look like they should be a problem, though,” Dr. Armstrong said.

House Bill 697 stated Louisiana would supervise universities performing marijuana research.

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.

Text of House Bill 697

The oversight included the following:

  • Areas of inspections as facilities’ physical structure.
  • Inventory and accuracy of inventory reporting.
  • Security.
  • State and local electrical, fire, plumbing and building specification codes.