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Paulwell committed to making Jamaica a world leader in ganja

Published:Sunday | January 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham
ganja

Minister of Science and Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell says the Government is committed to making Jamaica a world leader in the exploitation of the economic value of ganja derivatives.

He says that while he recognises that some countries may be ahead of Jamaica at this time, the framework is being established to preserve and enhance Jamaica's position.

"Many countries (as well as) some states in the United States of America are more advanced than us at this time. We intend, not only to catch up, but to pass those countries based on the R&D that we have already done in this area," Paulwell said Thursday at the close of the Jamaica Stock Echange's 10th annual capital markets conference in Kingston.

"My ministry, through the Scientific Research Council, will be playing a critical role in relation to medicinal marijuana," Paulwell said.

Inside Jamaica, the first medical marijuana company, Medicanja Jamaica Limited, was created in 2013. Medicanja will market products made from medicinal cannabis or ganja by parent company Bio-Tech R&D Institute (BTRDI).

Henry Lowe, the executive chairman and chief scientist for both Bio-Tech and Medicanja, has said Medicanja 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.

The company is preparing to launch a number of products as soon as it gets the green light. They include Ganja Relief to treat nausea, pain, appetite stimulation and motion sickness; Ganja Salve, an arthritic cream; Ganjaflam, an anti-inflammatory cream for muscle pain; Ganja Col, a rubbing alcohol with lime scent; Ganja Rub, an arthritic healing oil; Ganja Pain for joint pain and muscle stiffness; and Ganja Sure for nausea associated with chemotherapy pain and appetite stimulation. Several others are coming down the pike.

The company is awaiting the promulgation of legislation and regulations by the Government, and for the Ministry of Health to determine whether the products will be sold as over-the-counter pharmaceuticals or as prescription drugs.

Cabinet has now approved a framework for the use and exploitation of the benefits of ganja.

Now that the executive has given the go-ahead, Paulwell said on Thursday that everything will be done to develop those strains of the herb that will enable uniformity and standardisation. He also said the Jamaican Government will accommodate and preserve the position of small operators.

"I want to assure all interests, especially those small farmers who might feel that their experience might not be utilised today; we are creating a framework for that experience to be utilised and they should not feel endangered by larger businesses coming to gobble up the market," said Paulwell.

The Minister also announced that a steering committee has been convened to oversee Jamaica's foray into the market for nutraceuticals. The group's task is to seek out strategic alliances in the sector.

Nutraceuticals include plant extracts used in products such as teas, herbal medicines essential oils and tonic wines. Paulwell says estimates indicate that the market at present is valued at more than US$600 million.

Medicanja and its advisers have said that the medical marijuana market in the United States alone is expected to reach US$9 billion this year.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com