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Partnership critical for ganja industry success - SRC head

Published:Thursday | July 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer
Dr Cliff Riley speaking on the many uses of marijuana

Executive Director of the Scientific Research Council (SRC) Dr Cliff Riley has underscored the importance of working partnerships that acknowledge and incorporate the expertise of small players as critical to the success of Jamaica's fledgling medical marijuana industry.

Dr Riley noted that despite deterrents such as the classification of marijuana as a Class 1 drug alongside narcotics such as heroin, cocaine and LSD, the research drive to validate the long-observed anecdotal medical benefits of Cannabis sativa will only thrive in an environment of mutual trust. He warned scientists, in particular, against alienating farmers.

"I am asking our researchers, please, for God's sake, do not go to communities take the farmers' ganja and carry back to our lab and study. Incorporate the farmers within your research teams," he told Thursday's opening ceremony of the two-day Jamaica Medical Cannabis Integration Symposium taking place at the University of Technology in Papine, St Andrew.

Delivering the keynote address on the theme 'The Promise of Medicinal Cannabis: Merging Science, Spirit and Business', Dr Riley warned against repeating a mistake that led to the failure of many promising agro-processing businesses.

"The trust between our farming community and our knowledge holders is hanging on to a very thin thread. Let us not destroy that. As we engage in this research and develop-ment ... let us see how we can achieve that integration with our knowledge holders, with our farmers, with our traditional processors," he advised.

"You'll be amazed by the outcome and the impact of the work that you'll get because you are not relying on what you find in the lab alone. You'll be relying on the practice, history, and evidence in practice, not just evidence documented. It's absolutely critical that you take that approach in the R and D (research and development)," he charged.

Farmers should also recognise the value of research and development in helping them to realise the economic potential of medical marijuana, the SRC executive director advised.

He continued: "You can't just look at a plant and say, 'Me know weh me have'. Allow the scientist to work with you, and scientists, allow our processors and our farmers to work with you. Build that trust. Have them understand the scientific method. Let us guide and assist them. That is how we will drive integration. That how we will merge the business of science and spirituality with culture to drive and support the economy."