Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, says the country must stake its claim on all local strains of marijuana for research and development.
Jamaica, it is said, has some of the best or finest marijuana strains in the world, which include the Jamaican Lamb’s Breath (or Lamb’s Bread) and Marley’s Collie.
“It is like our birthright and we cannot allow persons from outside to come and take away our birthright,” he argued.
He said it is believed that one country is “in possession of all our indigenous strains and is doing research on all of them.”
“We have to position ourselves, we have to take on the mantle (and) do what we have to do… as it relates to medicinal marijuana research,” the minister stressed.
He was addressing the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Corporation (JMCC) Limited and the National Foundation for the Development of Science and Technology (NFDST) at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston today.
The MOU formalises an agreement between the entities to undertake a project that will identify, isolate and conserve the local strains of cannabis for medicinal use, utilising advanced plant biotechnological, botanical and agricultural methods.
It also aims to strengthen Jamaica’s contribution to the local and international health industries through the provision of raw materials and value-added medicinal products.
Through the MOU, the Jamaica/Canada-based JMCC have committed to investment of US$2million in research and development over the next 10 years.
The NFDST will receive, manage and disburse the funds to a research consortium that will execute the undertaking.
The consortium will consist of members of the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST), which is the coordinating body, the Scientific Research Council (SRC), Caribbean Genetics and the Institute of Jamaica, among other institutions to be identified.
“This project has the potential to catapult the island as the lead expert in medicinal cannabis use, which is a game changer,” Wheatley declared.
“The agreement is another advancement in cementing the solid framework for Jamaica utilising science and technology to energise, innovate and empower, (which) changes the game,” he added.
Wheatley said the project will enable “Jamaica to be among the first to position itself to create, discover and enter new frontiers” to not only ensure development of a sustainable cannabis industry but also for the growth of the nation.
In his remarks, Director of the NFDST, Dr Conrad Douglas, said the “findings will be important.”
“When we get into drafting this experimental programme, we will look into an experimental design aimed at developing new knowledge, which we will apply to the specific objectives and goals of the project, which we can transfer to other areas of the Jamaican environment,” he said.
JMCC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Diane Scott, said her company is focused on the development of medicinal cannabis in Jamaica and is committed to being the best growers of cannabis in the world.
“We’re 100 per cent committed to protecting what you have, what is indigenous; what makes you unique and what cannot be found anywhere else. It is very important to us that we represent Jamaica in all facets,” she said.