Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 1:42 AM

There is an insistence from Audley Shaw, the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, that the rescheduling of marijuana will be crucial if the country is to gain maximum benefit from its emergence as an industry.

“The scheduling of cannabis as a schedule-1 drug poses multiple challenges, including limiting research capabilities to fully ascertain the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Therefore, rescheduling of cannabis will not only open the doors for further research but also allow for formal education of medical practitioners in using quality-controlled cannabis and cannabis products to alleviate patients’ symptoms, allowing for more regulated use for those who need it most,” said the minister last week in New York, United States.

Shaw, whose ministry has primary responsibility for authorising the legal use of ganja, was the guest speaker for the annual Caribbean International Network (CIN) Lecture Series, held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

He was speaking on the theme ‘The Search for Green Gold … Marijuana’.

The minister reported that, as at September 30, 2019, the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) has issued 47 licences, with an additional 12 applicants set to make final arrangements for the granting of their licences.

Additionally, there are 250 more applications at the conditional approval stage.

Despite that obstacle, the minister said Jamaica is seeking to position itself as a leader in clinical trials for pain with the reduction of opioid use through cannabis.

“The opiate crisis is one of the greatest tragedies of modern medicine, and with international leaders such as Dr Yasmin Hurd, who heads up research at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, who by the way is a Jamaican, we are going to replicate many of these trials in Jamaica and use our existing universities and brilliant minds to help solve this problem,” Shaw said.

“This process is well advanced with partners such as Tree of Knowledge, headed by the leading cannabis pain specialist in Canada, Dr Kevin Rod, leading the charge in bringing this expertise to Jamaica by entering into local partnerships.”

Tree of Knowledge International Corp (Tree of Knowledge) is a publicly traded Canadian and United States company.

It will be introducing chronic pain management protocols and research into the Caribbean market. The introduction of these protocols will take the form of clinical trials and research that will include the usage of specific strains of cannabis that aid in chronic pain and cancer treatments.

“A key facet in this partnership will be work with the indigenous communities in Jamaica to identify the above-mentioned strains. In addition, Tree of Knowledge and CIPPAR will work together to develop an international, state-of-the-art medical tourism facility in Jamaica to carry out clinical trials and provide pain management services. The partnership will also create certification and training opportunities for Caribbean doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other medical professionals,” Shaw stated.

The minister said the Government has taken note of key movements internationally which could further result in the formalisation of the industry.

“We acknowledge some important changes that have taken place in the US over the recent past. I refer to the approval by the US Congress of the bill legalising medicinal hemp with THC levels of minus 0.03 per cent.”

Speaking to local efforts to build out a formal industry, Shaw said the Bureau of Standards Jamaica has completed consultations regarding the Draft Jamaican Code of Practice for Processing and Handling of Medical Cannabis Products and the Draft Jamaican Standard Guide for Packaging and Labelling of Resin Cannabis Products.

He said the administration was in receipt of the first draft of the import-export regulations for cannabis for final review and discussion which, on enactment, will give the CLA jurisdiction or the statutory authority to handle requests for import-export of inflorescence/flower and extract/resin.

“Jamaica fully recognises and appreciates not only the economic but the health and wellness potential of this miracle plant and remains steadfast on our mission to fully exploit this ‘green gold’ in all aspects.”

The 14-year-old CIN Lecture Series, created by CIN founder and CEO Stephen Hill, has over the years sought to create the opportunity for Jamaicans to get their ideas to the wider world, through the exploration of issues of interest to the diaspora and local communities.