Mon | Dec 5, 2016

UWI plants legal weed, to establish Cannabis Research Institute

Published:Tuesday | April 21, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Minister of Justice Mark Golding (right) and Courtney Betty (left), president and CEO of Timeless Herbal Care, jointly plant a ganja seedling at yesterday's launch for the symbolic planting of the first legal marijuana plant at the Lecture Theatre Two, Faculty of Medical Sciences Teaching and Research Complex. Overseeing the activities are (at back, from left) Jamaica Labour Party representative Delano Seiveright, Richard 'Dicky' Crawford and herbalist Basil Hylton.

Ahead of being granted a licence to cultivate marijuana for research purposes, the University of the West Indies (UWI) is set to establish an institute to coordinate research efforts on medicinal and commercial products of marijuana.

At present these efforts are being pioneered by what is known as the UWI Cannabis Research Group.

The group, which is co-chaired by Professor Wayne McLaughlin and Dr Wendel Abel, consists of a number of researchers drawn from various departments within the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the UWI.

Speaking with The Gleaner during the press launch of the symbolic planting of Jamaica's first legal cannabis plant, members of the group disclosed that plans are currently being made for the establishment of a cannabis research institute.

"The setting up of an institute is under discussion. We have a team, of which I am the coordinator, and we have everyone who is interested in it on board, so we will be setting up a unit and getting it registered," said Dr Lauriann Young-Martin, a member of the UWI Cannabis Research Group.

In the interim the group has set out elements of its initial research.

Identify strains

McLaughlin, co-chair of the group, said, "Initially, we will be focusing on characterisation, so we can identify what the different strains are, we will also be doing chemical profiling of all the strains."

The group will also be studying what is known as the mechanism of action, which will detail how the chemicals in the plant operate and interact with the human body.

This aspect of the research will be carried out by Dr Maxine Gassel-Williams, Dr Carole Lindsay and Young-Martin.

Dr Rupika Delgoda, of the Natural Products Institute, will be looking at the products that can be derived from the plant.

Phillip Paulwell, the minister of science, technology, energy and mining, has said that the Scientific Research Council (SRC) will be monitoring the work of the research group.

The UWI had announced in 2013 that it would be setting up the Jamaica Cannabis Institute in collaboration with the University of Technology, Jamaica.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com