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Ganja on a new high - Jamaican researcher welcomes CNN's celebrity doctor's late endorsement of medicinal properties of the weed

Published:Sunday | August 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM


Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer

Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe has welcomed the decision by celebrity doctor and chief medical correspondent of the Cable News Network (CNN), Sanjay Gupta, to join those endorsing the medical properties of ganja.

Gupta, who was President Barack Obama's pick for Surgeon General, previously strongly opposed the use of ganja for any reason.

But he recently admitted that he has been part of those misleading individuals on the medical uses of the weed.

"Gupta has seen the light and although his apology is late, it is welcomed," said Lowe in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner.

Lowe, who specialises in medicinal chemistry and who is author of the book, Ganja - the Jamaican connection, is now preparing for the third edition of the book in time for a conference on the drug in September in Jamaica.

"I have been supporting ganja for its medicinal uses based on scientific activity," said Lowe who, along with University of Technology president professor Errol Morrison, set up the Cannabis Research Institute which is to be reopened before the end of this year.

"While ganja, in my view, is not the all-embracing medication that some people have advocated, it has some definite medicinal qualities.

"We want more people to be focused because there is so much going on for the medicinal potentials. So we want to restart it," Lowe said.

Gupta's apology came a week before airing of a CNN documentary dubbed 'Weed'.

"I apologise because I didn't look hard enough, until now. I didn't look far enough," Gupta wrote in an article published by CNN.

"I didn't review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis," added Gupta.

For Lowe, that is a step in the right direction.


"I think the apology was a good thing. I think he is spot on, and honest. It might be a little late in coming out, but the fact is when you have the political and other agendas you have to be careful about the timing," he explained.

Lowe said he did not want to be caught up in the smoking debate because there are clear dangers, citing the recently announced ban on smoking in public spaces locally.

"I am for managed, controlled research into marijuana. I am not into smoking ganja," Lowe stated.

"Smoking has its own dangers but I have always maintained that marijuana has strong medical uses," added Lowe.

Ganja advocates in Jamaica have for years urged the government to decriminalise ganja for religious and medicinal uses.

Recently, legislators in Montevideo, Uruguay, inched closer to making that country the first to legalise the production, sale and use of ganja.

The bill narrowly passed the Lower House with a 50 to 46 vote, but is expected to have an easier passage through the Senate later this year.

The bill provides that Uruguay's government will license growers, sellers and consumers, who must be 18 years, and update a confidential registry to keep persons from buying more than 40 grams of the weed each month at pharmacies.

Dr Lowe is an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, USA, and distinguished adjunct professor of ethno-medicinal chemistry, University of Technology, Jamaica.