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Gleaner Editors' Forum | Jamaican ganja needs patent protection, says JIPO head

Published:Friday | April 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Lilyclaire Bellamy, Executive Director, JIPO

There is a growing need to protect the Jamaican strain of ganja, primarily for medicinal purposes, Lilyclaire Bellamy, the executive director of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), has said.

She made the assessment that it was vitally important to have Jamaican neutraceutical products derived from ganja protected under the Intellectual Property Act to safeguard the country's reputation as a brand on the international stage, as well as to protect its researchers and producers.

Speaking at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum at the company's offices on North Street, Kingston, to highlight Intellectual Property Week, Bellamy noted that Jamaican medicinal ganja was more than worthy of protection.

"Under the CARIFORUM Partnership Agreement, Jamaica had to share a list where we designated products that were potential geographic indications out of Jamaica," Bellamy said.

"So one of the products we listed was the Jamaican ganja, for its medicinal properties, and remember that before the decriminalising of ganja, work had been done using cannabis to produce two registered pharmaceutical products, Canasol (which treats glaucoma) and Asthmasol (treats asthma)," she said.

Bellamy posited that the decision to identify ganja as a geographic indication was not a problem but reasoned that the Government had recognised the importance of the strain of ganja and that protecting it under the Intellectual Property Act was important.

A geographical indication is a sign used on products - such as Jamaica's strain of ganja, reputed to be the best in the world - that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, or a reputation, that are due to that origin.

"So we do not want our ganja to be corrupted with another ganja that is not as good. But when someone goes to buy a product, we want them to know it is an authentic Jamaican product, which means you will be getting the full effect of the Jamaican ganja in a medicinal product," Bellamy said.

Several ganja licences have already been issued to growers and producers, particularly those interested in the product for medicinal research, and according to Bellamy, the JIPO remained an integral part of the process.

The JIPO is the primary agency with responsibility for matters relating to intellectual property rights in Jamaica. It has the critical mandate to establish and administer a modern and effective intellectual property system, which is to be a catalyst for international competitiveness, facilitating economic growth, and national development.