With her background in biology and neuroscience, Dr. Valerie Albano knows better than most that there aren’t a lot of good long-term pain management options.

The dangers of opioid usage, like Oxycodone, are well documented and even something as simple as Ibuprofen and Tylenol can harm your kidneys and liver when used regularly over long periods.

It’s one of the main reasons the Merced College professor was one of the first to endorse a partnership with a local farming family to study hemp production and the harvesting of Cannabidiol (CBD) oil.

“A Madera County farming family from Chowchilla approached the College, as well as Fresno State and UCLA, regarding research potential for hemp production,” Albano said. “What they are looking to do is develop a relationship with an institution of higher education and we came to mind because some of grower’s attended Merced College.”  Merced College is also known for its robust agriscience and biotechnology programs, which aligned well with the farmer’s research interests and needs related to hemp production.

“The U.S. government recently changed the classification of hemp, which created this opportunity. After studying a little bit about hemp and CBD production, there’s not a lot of good science behind actually growing the plant. This is a quickly growing industry and Merced College has an opportunity to be in on the forefront of it” according to Albano.

After reviewing a proposal put together by Superintendent/President Chris Vitelli, the Merced College Board of Trustees voted to approve the partnership between the College and Greenbrier Hemp Research Institute during the June 11 board meeting.  The partnership is a one-year research agreement between the Institute and Merced College.  All expenses for the research project are fully paid for by Greenbrier, including the professor’s research time and the undergraduate student research assistant positions.

        “Merced College is in the business of providing students with the skills, experience, and expertise needed in today’s changing and dynamic job market.  This research partnership provides a unique opportunity in an emerging industry”, says Vitelli.

The current agreement allows for bug and soil sampling for their students to study and analyze. Dr. Albano said the initial round of research will be conducted in Microbiology and Biotechnology classes.

“The idea is to study the field and how plants are growing at three points. We’ll do it in beginning at plant emergence, in the middle, when they are growing like weeds and at the end when the plants are close to harvest

“It’s exciting. Because this is privately funded, it gives us the opportunity to bring our students into the 21st century and participate in research that is definitely on the cutting edge of this emerging industry.”  Albano said.