Lowe launches Jamaica's first medical marijuana company. Medicanja IPO for early 2015
Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Dr Henry Lowe and partners have launched Jamaica's first medical marijuana company, and are already plotting to build a worldwide brand out of Medicanja while still awaiting regulatory approval for the start-up business.
Medicanja Jamaica Limited will market products made from medicinal cannabis or ganja by parent company Bio-Tech R&D Institute (BTRDI).
Lowe, the executive chairman and chief scientist for both the manufacturing and clinical trials company Bio-Tech and medical marijuana business, Medicanja, said the latter company will make a bid to go public in the first quarter of 2015 with an initial public offering that will be pitched to Jamaicans here and overseas.
Speaking at the company launch in Kingston on Wednesday, Lowe said the principals had registered companies in the United States and Canada for R&D support.
"... We have not excluded the Jamaican people," he said. "We will be calling on anyone who wants to be a part of building the Brand Jamaica medicinal cannabis industry through the aegis of BTRDI, Medicanja Limited and the UWI. We will be floating an IPO for anyone who wants to get involved."
With seven products ready for market, and more under development, Lowe said Bio-Tech R&D was awaiting the issuing of regulations by the Ministry of Health to place the products on the market and start shipments overseas.
The sole shareholder in Medicanja is listed as EHF Resource Development Limited, which is domiciled at Lowe's Eden Garden's property at 39 Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston. Lowe is the sole director.
EHF Resource is owned by another of Lowe's companies, Environmental Health Foundation; its directors are listed on Companies Office records as Henry Lowe, Errol Morrison, Novlet Green, Herbert Lowe and Oral Shaw.
Bio-Tech also operates a research lab at the Mona campus, University of the West Indies (UWI), and will be extending that partnership to develop a scientific research centre at UWI for which a preliminary deal was struck in September.
Medicanja is a registered company in Jamaica and Delaware in the United States (US). Lowe said investment to date totalling J$25 million in both companies have been made collectively by board members from their own resources.
Lowe told the Financial Gleaner on Thursday that as much as 45 per cent of the company could be offered to the public, noting that the targeted fundraising was to be decided.
He declined to disclose the name of the broker preparing the transaction.
Medicanja, created in 2013, was launched to undertake commercialisation of value-added products and services from medical ganja, which are targeted at local, regional and international markets, as outlined by Medicanja board member and former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at Wednesday's event.
The company then unveiled 10 prototypes for pain management, which use "CBDs with very little THC" as outlined by Lowe.
CBD - cannabidiol - is a cannabis compound which is said to have significant medical benefits, does not make people feel "stoned" and has potential for treatment of wide range of conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, multiple schlerosis, chronic pain, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, antibiotic-resistant infections, epilepsy, and other neurological disorders.
THC - tetrahydrocannabinol - has been identified as an element in marijuana which changes behaviour by affecting receptors on nerve cells.
The Medicanja products are designed to treat and manage some 84 maladies overall. Its cannabis-based products include Ganja Relief, a sublingual drops for nausea, pain, appetite stimulation and motion sickness; Ganja Salve, an arthritic cream for joint and muscle stiffness, pain and inflammation; Ganjaflam, an anti-inflammatory cream for muscle pain, swelling and inflammation; Ganja Col, a rubbing alcohol with lime scent; Ganja Rub, an arthritic healing oil for muscle pain and stiffness; Ganja Pain, a pain-relief spray for joint pain and muscle stiffness; and Ganja Sure, an oromucosal spray for nausea associated with chemotherapy pain and appetite stimulation.
Medicanja's future products include Ganja Viz, a glaucoma eye drop aimed at regulating inner ocular eye pressure; Ganja Derm, a transdermal pain medication patch; Ganja Vit, a cannabis multivitamin tonic; Ganja Tabs comprising cannabis CBD tablets; and Ganja Tea, a cannabis leaf tea.
The Medicanja products are not yet available commercially, "nor will they be until the regulatory and legislative framework is established and approved by the Government of Jamaica and the Ministry of Health (MOH) for the local and international markets and in the health tourism business," the scientist said.
He said that the MOH will also have to determine how the products will be sold - whether by prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
Reaching back to one of his more infamous phrases, "fly the gate", Patterson said Jamaican regulators need to act swiftly so that businesses can tap into the "rapidly growing" medical marijuana market, valued at US$2.5 billion. By 2015, the market is expected to reach US$8.9 billion in the United States, Patterson said, as more states move to decriminalise the plant for medicinal and recreational purposes.
In Canada, the market will be valued at CDN$1.3 billion by 2024, he said, while markets are opening up in Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Britain, Australia and, most recently, the Czech Republic, where cannabis has been authorised for medical purposes.
He also pointed to a global hemp market estimated to be valued at approximately US$10 billion.
Professor Archibald McDonald, principal of the UWI, said that in Canada sensimilia or Jamaican ganja was priced much higher than the more accessible strain of the plant from Afghanistan.
Official research on the use of cannabis for medical purposes started at UWI Mona campus in 1969.
The campus is also home to Bio-Tech R&D's laboratory and clinical trials to produce pharmaceuticals.
Medicanja is currently focused on neutraceuticals and cosmocueticals.
Thirty-five individuals are employed to the two companies in Jamaica and the US. Lowe noted that the number is set to become larger as new clinical trials are about to begin.