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    Southern University launches THC line of medical cannabis products

    The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, part of the Southern University System, together with Ilera Holistic Healthcare (Ilera Holistic), became the nation’s first historically Black university to launch its own THC medical cannabis products. The university and Ilera share one of two cannabis licenses in the state of Louisiana. The launch of this historic brand, called AYO, comes on the heels of Louisiana’s unprecedented extension in June of its own medical marijuana program.

    SU Ag Center chancellor Orlando McMeans PhD

    SU Ag Center chancellor Orlando McMeans PhD

    “This is yet another great and historic day for the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center,” said Orlando McMeans, chancellor of the Ag Center, during a press conference July 1. “The goal of this program is to provide quality medicine for the citizens of the state of Louisiana through education, research and outreach, all of which are included in the mission of the Ag Center. The release of AYO, along with our CBD products, will enable us to help patients better manage their medical issues and improve their quality of life.”

    The AYO line joins the ALAFIA product brand, a hemp-derived tincture developed by Southern and Ilera.  ALAFIA launched on January 25 in the Louisiana market, making Southern University the first HBCU producer in both cannabis and hemp.  ALAFIA will be available online nationwide later this summer.

    “With the launch of both CBD and THC medical marijuana products, Southern continues to set precedents in innovation,” said Ray L. Belton,PhD. president of the Southern University System. “In addition to providing healthcare options for Louisiana residents, our valued partner, Ilera, is able to hire local talent. All of this impacts our state’s economy directly while expanding the Southern University brand.”

    Southern’s medical marijuana program is part of the Ag Center’s Southern Institute for Medicinal Plants led by Janana Snowden,PhD, the institute’s director and an assistant professor of agriculture at Southern University Baton Rouge. The institute and Ag Center have long researched plants such as hibiscus in addition to cannabis.

    “The very important research we conduct on medicinal plants helps us to address health problems that affect communities,” Snowden said. “Our products derived from medicinal plants offer patients another way to alleviate symptoms. We are proud that we can be part of many potential solutions.”

    AYO has been launched at a time that Louisiana has expanded laws to potentially allow more patients to choose medical marijuana for treatment. On June 11, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law ACT No 286, allowing any state-licensed physician to recommend medical marijuana to any of their patients to find relief for any condition.

    Chanda Macias

    Chanda Macias

    “ACT No 286 makes clear that Louisiana residents want full access to medical cannabis and the right to discuss alternative healthcare options with their doctors,” said Chanda Macias, chief executive officer for Ilera Holistic Healthcare. “We are grateful to the entire state legislature in welcoming our input throughout the long history of this bill and listening to the voices of our patients, advocates, doctors and industry colleagues. We had one common goal, which was to bring greater access to medicine for all patients in our great state.”

    AYO is scientifically formulated, lab-tested, pesticide-free, and only available in the state of Louisiana. To learn more about AYO and cannabis medicine, please visit www.ileraholistichealthcare.com.

    By LaKeeshia Lusk
    Contributing Writer

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    Irene Lewis named Southern University’s chief student marshal

    Irene L. Lewis, a Southern University agricultural sciences major with a concentration in plant and soil science, has been named the University’s Spring 2020 Chief Student Marshal, the student graduating with the highest grade point average in the class.

     “I am honored to serve as Chief Student Marshal to remind the Class of 2020 that we are resilient,” said Lewis, who graduated with a 3.9 grade point average.

    Lewis went on to say that she began college wanting to graduate as the chief student marshal but admitted that she quickly learned that a college experience is more than academics.

    “I learned that my college experience was much more important than my grades,” said Lewis. “It is about the people you meet and the memories you make. I never would have thought I would experience “virtual graduation,” but here we are. I say all of that to say, even though life did not follow an exact path for me, I am glad we can still celebrate,” she said.

    Lewis is a 22-year-old native of Baton Rouge by way of Central, La. She is the daughter of Eric and Maura Lewis and a 2016 graduate of Runnels High School.

    The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t the first time Lewis had a disruption from her planned path. In 2016, her home flooded days before the start of her freshman year at college.

    “It was difficult starting class almost immediately after losing the home I grew up in,” said Lewis. “It was even more difficult watching my family have to bounce back and my siblings adjust to moving to a new town all in a matter of months,” she said.

    “I think watching how strong both my younger brother and sister were as well as having my parents, family, and friends there to love and support me helped me tremendously,” said Irene. “As I started at Southern in the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences, I also learned that more than anything, I had a family away from home and a support system that would bring me a long way,” she said.

    During her college career, Irene was active in several student organizations. She was elected the National Undergraduate President of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) organization for the 2019-2020 year and Region IV National Undergraduate Vice President of MANRRS for the 2018-2019 year where she represented the organization’s college chapters in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Lewis was also active in the local Southern University Chapter of MANRRS where she served as both the Secretary during the 2017-2018 academic year and Historian during the 2018-2019 year.

    Lewis credits her time at Southern University for helping her grow as an adult.

    “Throughout college, I learned a lot about myself and my leadership abilities. I learned that, through balancing several organizations, responsibilities, and my personal life, I needed to take time to take care of me, my needs, and my wellbeing,” she said. “My professors in the College of Agricultural, Family, and Consumer Sciences taught me how to build a community. My interests have evolved greatly from my freshman year, but throughout, they have demonstrated that my possibilities are endless,” she expressed.

    After graduating, Lewis will spend the summer as an intern with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. During the Fall 2020 semester, she will begin working on a masters of public administration at The Ohio State University, focusing on food access policy. She will also have the opportunity to complete her second year of studies while working in Washington D.C. on a fully funded fellowship.

    By LaKeeshia Lusk
    Contributing Writer

     

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    Irene Lewis elected Undergraduate President of national agriculture organization

     Southern University student Irene Lewis, a senior agricultural sciences major with a concentration in plant and soil sciences, has been elected the national undergraduate president of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) organization for the 2019-2020 year.

    MANRRS provides leadership training and networking to positively promote the agricultural sciences and related fields among minorities.

    Lewis, who has been a member of Southern University’s MANRRS Chapter since her freshman year, said she was extremely excited when she learned that she was elected to the post.

    “To be able to give back to MANRRS and represent my university at a higher level was exciting for me,” she said. “Participating in MANRRS has afforded me countless opportunities so it only felt right to continue to serve the organization to the best of my ability,” said Lewis when asked why she decided to run for the national position.

    To qualify, she had to submit an application and an application video before being selected to move forward with an interview. Lewis  was interviewed by the then-President-Elect, Karl Binns. After passing the interview, she was informed that her name would be placed on the ballot.

    As a national officer, Irene represents the agricultural students enrolled in dozens of universities across the nation. This is something she doesn’t take lightly.

    “MANRRS has an enormous student membership,” she said. “These students are young people across the country and are a force, working to develop agriculture, natural resources and related sciences.  It’s important that I use this position to continue to advocate for underrepresented students in agriculture, especially for students at 1890 Institutions and other (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). They are truly our next generation of academic and industry leaders,” said Lewis.

    She said her goal as the Undergraduate National President is to be a supporter of the organization’s fourteen student officers.

    “I don’t think people can truly understand the weight that these positions can hold until they are in one. Balancing your academics, pursuing doctoral degrees (for some of our team), and serving in a national office requires a high level of discipline, collaboration, and accountability,” said Lewis. “My ultimate goal is to help my team be the best they can be,” she said.

    Prior to being elected to her current national position, Irene served as the Region IV Undergraduate Vice President for the 2018-2019 year, representing chapters in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas.

    At Southern University’s local chapter, Irene has served as the Chapter’s Secretary during the 2017-2018 academic year and Historian during the 2018-2019 year.

    “This year I am in a student advisory role as I transition out of the university,” said Lewis whose national involvement in MANRRS evolved from her participation at Southern.

    “I don’t think I would be able to serve in the way that I have if it had not been for participating in MANRRS at my chapter,” said Irene. “I gained countless mentors and a huge support system on campus. From our advisor, Dr. Janana Snowden, to the friends I met through MANRRS at SU, I really have had a tribe in these past two years of national service. Dr. Snowden literally gave me a pep talk minutes before I gave my campaign speech last year, and I am extremely grateful for that.”

    MANRRS is a non-profit organization that promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences. It has more than 8,000 student and professional members within six regions and 55 collegiate chapters in 38 states and Puerto Rico.

    Lewis is a native of  Baton Rouge. She is the daughter of Eric and Maura Lewis and a 2016 graduate of Runnels High School.

    By LaKeeshia Giddens Lusk

    Irene Lewis, a senior Agricultural Sciences major with a concentration in Plant and Soil Sciences at the Southern University, has been elected the national undergraduate president of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences organization. (Photo by D’Andre Lee, SU Ag Center.)

     

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