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Move faster on marijuana - Nation urged to hurry before it loses out on potentially massive benefits

Published:Monday | June 13, 2016 | 6:00 AMJason Cross
Dr Courtney Betty

The head of Timeless Herbal Care, one of the first companies to be awarded a permit for research and development of medical marijuana in Jamaica believes that if the nation does not move fast enough, all the opportunities associated with medical marijuana may very well pass it by.

Courtney Betty, president and CEO of Timeless, was one of the main presenters at an education seminar put on by the Pharmacy Council of Jamaica, held yesterday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

"We didn't see the opportunity to take it to the world, and my fear is that Jamaica missed so many opportunities in the past, (and) if we are not careful, we will again miss this opportunity," Betty said.

"Right now, this is set to be the largest industry the world has ever seen."

Speaking with The Gleaner, Betty said: "We already have companies that have developed pharmaceutically great products that they have brought to the market that are valued in the billions of dollars, so we know there is a model of success for this. The question is, can we come together with a strategy to achieve that goal? So far, unfortunately, that is not happening in Jamaica."

 

GREAT CHALLENGES

 

Betty indicated that great challenges persist in getting Jamaicans to understand the opportunities available within the medical marijuana industry.

"It's been long, hard, arduous, and challenging to get to the point that we are at now. Before we could get started, we had to get law passed. Fortunately, that was done in 2015. Along the way, it's been very challenging trying to get Jamaicans to understand that the opportunity here may not necessarily involve THC, the part that makes you high, but there is (also) Cannabidiol, the real medicinal side, and how do we begin to position ourselves in that space?" he said.

With success being had by Dr Manley West and Dr Albert Lockhart, the creators of Cannasol, a medical marijuana product used to treat glaucoma, Betty said there are many other types of diseases that Jamaicans can rid themselves of once industry players start working together by pooling resources and influence.

"We are finding that there is a broad range of diseases that are impacted by (medical) marijuana. Everyone is quite familiar with epilepsy, and I think it's been globally accepted that extracts from the plant do reduce seizures in children. There is groundbreaking research that has been done in terms of diabetes; a lot of research in terms of anti-inflammatory (medicines); and cancer," Betty said.

"We've had success because Dr Lockhart and Dr West, they developed Cannasol for glaucoma and Asthmasol for asthma. If Jamaica was to create a proper framework and figure out how we can leverage the resources that we have, we can produce products that not only will the world come to Jamaica for, but we will be able to take to the world. I'm really hoping that the minister of science and technology, (Andrew) Wheatley, is uniquely positioned to lead the vision for the industry to get players working together," he stressed.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com