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Cannabis licensee to start small, scale up production of ganja oils

Published:Friday | November 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham

Everyting Oily Labs Limited, one of two outfits to land the first ganja licences issued in Jamaica, is setting up shop in Portmore, but its principal is cagey about pinpointing the precise location.

With a Tier 1-Processor licence in hand, processor Rory Liu says he is starting small but intends to scale up the business, eventually, over an undisclosed timeline. Everyting Oily will essentially extract oils from the ganja plant and operate as a bulk supplier.

"I'm on a property that's an acre or more so that I should be able to expand, build warehouses and build a bigger processing facility. It's more than 60,000 square feet of land," said Liu.

"I can build a big processing facility, where I can work with not just these people that I've signed with, but anyone else that comes on board that needs processing," he said.

Everyting Oily is part of a tripartite agreement involving the Cannabis Licensing Authority, CLA, and the other licensee, Epican Medicinals Limited, which was issued a Tier 1-Cultivator licence.

The agreement joins the two companies in a closed loop with regulator CLA so that the ganja produced and processed can be tracked from farm to factory.

Liu's company is a small outfit. Company documents list Claudine Liu as equal owner, co-director and company secretary.

His interest in cannabis began as a teenager, when as a high-school student in 1999 he wrote a paper, as a chemistry assignment, on the benefits of the THC or tetrahydrocannabinol molecule, an active ingredient in the make-up of the ganja plant.

Later, he went on to work as a network engineer for a company in Canada, but said his interest in cannabis never waned.

"I would read papers, do research online, and watch videos, keeping track on social media about what was going on in the industry, reading the laws - I just got more and more interested in it," he said.

Through his consistent research, he was able to spot trends in the market and, finally, his eureka moment came.

"Looking on at what was happening in the industry, I saw that concentrates were trending at that time. It was all about the oils coming from cannabis to treat cancer or epilepsy. This was signalling a healthier use of the plant, rather than just smoking it," Liu said.

He then began experimenting on extraction processes, drawing on his background in chemistry and biology. He started out with ethanol extraction using a process called mechanical sifting, which involved the use of other chemicals and, in one case, liquid nitrogen.

Eventually, he settled on a process that uses liquid carbon dioxide to reduce the ganja to essential oils in order to extract the active chemicals. He then began looking around for a place where he could set up business.

"I was looking at doing processing in one of the legal states, like Colorado or California, but the law [in Jamaica] was passed in 2015 and so everything came together for me to move back here," Liu recounted.

Everyting Oily Labs is Liu's first venture. He declined comment on the level of investment in the business, but checks indicate that his closed loop super-critical liquid CO2 extraction system can cost between US$100,000 and US$500,000 - about $13 million to $64 million in local currency.

On his return to Jamaica in 2015, Liu said he was determined to overcome any roadblock to his plans to enter the ganja market.

"I was all the way in. I could not let this fail. I pushed hard, going to all the ministries, doing the research and talking to all the people that I could, making the connections so that this could not fail," he emphasised.

Everyting Oily will operate as a bulk supplier, starting with two to three additional employees.

"I could resell that oil to another manufacturer or processor that could then mix it into their own formulations that are topical or sublingual. I could also 'white label manufacture', in that a licensed operator could pass their formulation to me and I would manufacture to their specifications. I could also export that to countries that would allow import of the oils," he said.