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Free up the weed! - US researchers urge Jamaica to make ganja fully legal and readily available to tourists

Published:Friday | April 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMRyon Jones
International recording artiste Bunny Wailer (right) at the Trench Town Culture Yard, after a march through the Corporate Area in support of the legalisation of marijuana.

Two years after Jamaica's Parliament passed amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act making it no longer a criminal offence to posses two ounces or less of marijuana, two United States-based ganja advocates are calling for further changes to make the weed totally legal.

Cannabis therapeutic specialist, Dr Uma Dhanabalan, is of the view that countries such as Jamaica should not let the development of its marijuana industry be curtailed by the US, which she says made the weed illegal for no good reason.

"This plant needs to be legalised throughout the world because right now it's a cause of segregation and it's about racism and a political issue; it has nothing to do with medicinal values," said Dhanabalan, who will be the keynote speaker at a cannabis conference to be staged by CanEx Jamaica in New Kingston next month.

"Right now, it is illegal because of what happened in the United States. Most of the countries reacted to what Harry Anslinger did in the United States in the 1930s. Cannabis was food, fuel, fibre, paper and medicine. It was because of politics that it was replaced with synthetic," added Dhanabalan as she questioned the vision for ganja in Jamaica.




According to Dhanabalan, the ganja plant has two primary purposes, medicinal and industrial, and with the medical use of cannabis strict standards are required.

"We need to know who the doctors are that are writing the recommendation, we need standards for the laboratory for the medicine so that we can know that we are all speaking the same language, we need to see a label - these are some of the basic things with cannabinoid medicines that we need to deal with," said Dhanabalan said.

"We need cultivation standards to make sure that we are cultivating this plant properly. So that we don't create poison, because if we use pesticides and other contaminants you could be doing more harm. We need standards for products, such as capsules, lotion, etc," added the ganja specialist.

She argued that instead of fining or jailing persons for a plant that has "killed no one", resources and efforts should be placed in educating persons about the endo-cannabinoid system.




Ganja researchers argue that the presence of the endo-cannabinoid system in all humans is why medicinal cannabis is being so effective. This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, which are two of the active ingredients found in ganja.

It is for this reason that Dhanabalan is calling for cannabis as a plant medicine to "be an option as it is not for everybody, but it should be a first-line option not a last resort. What cannabis does is to cause people to mimic our own body's cannabinoids so what it's actually doing is replacing the deficiency that our body has."

In the meantime, Colorado-based research scientist, Dr Brian Reid, who is the chief scientific officer at cannabis research company Ebbu, believes that until the US and other countries allow for the legal movement of cannabis by-products, Jamaica should adopt a similar approach to Colorado.

"This means partnering in setting up manufacturing companies in Jamaica so that the product is manufactured in that jurisdiction with material that is sourced in that same jurisdiction," said Reid.

"I think tourists would love to have legal means to buy and consume products while visiting Jamaica. There are also a number of patients who want medical marijuana. A lot of these persons have had to actually move to Colorado. So Jamaica could say come here to help your child get better or come here to treat your illness," added Reid.



CanEx comes to New Kingston


The CanEx Jamaica Seminar Series will take place at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Friday, May 5, 2017.

This series will feature high-level content on the latest advances on the regulatory, legal, investment and medicinal cannabis landscape.

The event comes at a pivotal time in Jamaica and brings together professionals from across the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and North America to discuss opportunities for investment, medical developments and the legal landscape.

The conference will facilitate a mix of high-level discourse and practical opportunity led by global experts with real-life application in the industry. The conference will also feature presentations by Jamaican experts, policymakers, researchers and business people. The CanEx Jamaica speakers and panellists will speak on four key strains - medicinal cannabis, health and wellness, business and legal, and processing and cultivating.