Play up Jamaica's ganja competitive advantages, says research scientist
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Noted research scientist Dr Henry Lowe has called on investors and stakeholders to play up Jamaica's competitive advantages in the four factors of production.
Founder and CEO of Medicanja, the region's first medical cannabis company, Lowe cited land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship as critical components in the burgeoning market.
Addressing the first cannabis business and international investors conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Lowe suggested that these are distinct advantages.
“Because of our climate and soil, Jamaica has a special competitive advantage in using its land to commercially develop and market viable strains," said Lowe.
"Most of these strains originated right here and were exported and hybridized globally," he added.
Lowe suggested that this problem is not confined to ganja. "We have seen this with our pineapple, periwinkle and even our coffee, "he said.
He noted that proper agricultural and horticultural methods and technology need to be applied in association with cloning, seed hybridization and labeling of plants and products to ensure authenticity of the Jamaican brand and to secure the supply chain.
Lowe said Medicanja Limited is expected to lead this initiative through strategic partnerships, such as with the University of the West Indies, the Scientific Research Council and the Bio-Tech R&D Institute and Blue Ocean Laboratories in Canada, which will allow Jamaica to be able to conduct the research and develop the templates of the standardized hybrids.
On the labour landscape, Lowe said: “Current estimated number of jobs to be created by the industry in the US is at 200,000. Again, another competitive advantage for Jamaica is that there is an available, trainable labour force and, more importantly, labour costs in Jamaica are cheaper than that of our competitors”.
He noted that Medicanja is prepared to offer training and education in the emerging industry.
Lowe also said that capital investments are required to push research and development and industrial scale production.
He pointed to Phytotech in Perth, Australia which offered stakeholders shares in medical marijuana through an initial public offering which was three times oversubscribed, raising US$15 million in 2014.
Similarly, Medicanja Limited will be offering shares through a private placement as well as an initial public offering within the first quarter of this year.
In the realm of entrepreneurship, Dr. Lowe said: “The enabling business environment being created must include simplified global IP registration and protection of products developed and of Brand Jamaica itself.
Intellectual property protection will be critical at this juncture in order to safeguard against history repeating itself."
He called for an open market concept offering tax breaks to investors in new start-ups and to entrepreneurs that will encourage industry development and success.
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