Casserly leading Medicanja to market
Patrick Casserly, who made his name as a businessman in the information technology market, has taken on a new challenge - ganja.
For the past seven months, Casserly has been running Medicanja Jamaica Limited as its chief executive officer, a quiet appointment that he confirmed to Wednesday Business on Monday.
His immediate focus is getting six of the company's medical marijuana products to market. That will happen by year end, said the Medicanja CEO.
"We're waiting on the necessary approvals from the Ministry of Health," he said.
"The Ministry of Health has been stellar in working hand in hand with us in bringing us to the stage where we can have prescription medication that is made in Jamaica from produce in Jamaica."
Casserly is also overseeing the plan in progress for the company to go public via the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The initial 2015 timetable has been pushed back to early 2016. Mayberry Investments has been hired as lead arranger for the IPO, the CEO said.
Medicanja, the company, was launched by chairman Dr Henry Lowe last year as the vehicle through which a number of ganja products developed by his research firm, Bio-Tech R&D Institute, would be commercialised. Lowe said at the time that the idea was to float around 45 per cent of Medicanja on the exchange.
Casserly declined to name the six products awaiting approval. However, Medicanja had unveiled a number of products last year, which the company said were designed to treat and manage some 84 maladies overall - Ganja Relief, Ganja Salve, Ganjaflam, Ganja Col, Ganja Rub, Ganja Pain, Ganja Sure. Those products were then said to be market-ready and only awaiting regulatory approval.
Medicanja also spoke of future products that would 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.
Casserly officially joined the board of Medicanja in February 2015 and became its CEO in April. He declined to comment on whether he was an investor in the company or its related businesses.
Medicanja has a number of heavy hitters on its board. They include former prime ministers Edward Seaga and P.J. Patterson; former governor general Sir Kenneth Hall; pro vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies-Mona, Professor Archibald McDonald; Dr Michael Banbury; and Hermine Metcalf.
The sole shareholder is listed as EHF Resource Development Limited, which is headquartered at Lowe's Eden Garden's property at 39 Lady Musgrave Road in Kingston.
EHF Resource is in turn owned by another of Lowe's companies, Environmental Health Foundation. EHF Resources' directors are listed as Henry Lowe, Errol Morrison, Novlet Green, Herbert Lowe and Oral Shaw.
As head of Medicanja, Casserly said his primary focus is the monetisation of ganja by exploiting the science of cannabis.
The main active ingredient in the Medicanja products is cannabidiol (CBD), a drug that acts differently from the more well known tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
"We don't sit in the back of the room and boil some ganja tea. We're talking about extracting, dealing with isolates, and then the recombination of isolates," said the CEO.
"The objective of MCJ is taking the product from being culturally significant with unpredictable outcomes to a medicinal product that has predictable results".
To get there, the company has restructured its operations, starting with MCJ Medicanja at the top. Below it are three divisions: Ganja CafÈ, promoting wellness; Greenleaf, which markets nutraceuticals; and MCJ Pharma to deal in prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The products will be marketed in Jamaica and internationally. Medicanja is already in the process of registering patents and has identified a distributor for its products in South Africa.
"These are remarkable products that will have a marked impact on people's lives," said Casserly while emphasising that Medicanja has no intention of positioning its products as the offerings of a small island.
"We're not going to be on the cultural aisle ... we will be on international shelves sitting right beside Tylenol and Ibuprofen," he declared.
Casserly, whose IT company was eventually bought out by American investors, recalled that he was able to collar the call centre market at a time when he was alternatively commended as being bold and condemned as mad. His E-Services Group was one of the most successful IT firms at its sale in 2009 to ACS.
"I am committed to seeing Jamaica be at the front and centre of this just as we were in nearshore," he said.
In the same breath, Casserly is offering a bold prediction as Medicanja products prepare to hit the shelves.
"If we do this properly, this industry will eclipse the call centre industry in terms of job creation," he said.