Editorial

Slow marching to medical marijuana funeral

Friday, November 10, 2017

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The slow march, we see, is continuing on this issue of licensing in the medical marijuana industry.

It's a point we have highlighted in this space on a number of occasions in the past, and now we see The University of the West Indies Principal Professor Archibald McDonald making the same point, if even in a more forceful way.

Last week, this newspaper reported Professor McDonald as scolding the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) for the slow pace at which it is issuing licences for legal operation in the cannabis industry.

“It has been a hard journey. We have had the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act three years ago, and it has been a difficult journey; a very difficult journey,” Professor McDonald said at a function where local company Medicanja launched and introduced six new cannabis products to the pharmaceutical market.

Noting that in the three years, the CLA has issued only two licences, Professor McDonald argued that the pace has been “much too slow”. In fact, he said that the view held by some individuals is that Jamaica has already missed the opportunity to fully capitalise on an industry that is already earning hundreds of millions of US dollars and is projected to value US$56 billion by 2025.

We have no hesitation in reiterating the fact that scientific research on the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has so far led the United States Food and Drug Administration to approve two medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form.

In addition, a number of countries have legalised the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and we are seeing the emergence of companies introducing medical marijuana products to the market. These are clear indications that others have moved faster out of the blocks on this issue than Jamaica has.

Professor McDonald, though, is not prepared for Jamaica to simply roll over and die on this matter. “We have to swim and do all we have to do to catch the boat,” he insisted.

If only our legislators and the other relevant authorities shared the enthusiasm displayed by him and indeed other scientists involved in marijuana research.

One such scientist is Dr Henry Lowe, who has done a mountain of work in this field and who is the brain behind Medicanja. In fact, we recall that last year Dr Lowe, in an address to the Jamaica Exporters' Association, argued that Jamaica, with limited effort, could earn more than US$300 million from nutraceuticals and medical cannabis over three years, if the products are properly marketed.

However, Dr Lowe warned that, if we are to compete internationally, “the regulations, such as the licensing process and standards for commercial ventures must be transparent, fair, open, and accessible to the public. However, if we are not careful and [are] taking too long, we will be overtaken and made redundant”.

Now, more than a year later, Professor McDonald is making a similar appeal, pointing out that no licences for research have been granted to the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology, and Medicanja.

The CLA and the country's legislators should bear in mind that the slow march is typically used for funerals.

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