by Eric Vengroff, Financial Analyst

We’ve been following the ongoing challenges and opportunities facing the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Cooperative in its efforts to import medical cannabis to Canada for academic and research processes.

Additionally, the JMCC has embarked on $2 million US, 10-year project to identify, analyze and preserve Jamaica’s indigenous cannabis strains. Last June, JMCC signed an official Memorandum of Agreement with the National Foundation for the Development of Science and Technology (NFDST) for the “Identification, Isolation and Conservation of Local Strains of Cannabis for Medicinal Use.”

This week, JMCC’s CEO, Diane Scott is in Toronto for the Toronto Global Forum to participate on a panel during the closing plenary session entitled “The New Cannabis Economy”, and we had an opportunity to speak with her and get an update.

CD:  How are you progressing in your efforts to import medical cannabis from Jamaica into Canada?

DS: “If you have been following our journey, you may know that we have several customers here in Canada that we have cultivation agreements with who have applied to Health Canada to bring in a sample for research and development purposes.  We believe very strongly that we need to walk before we run.  We need to prove that what we’re growing in Jamaica meets the same [Health Canada] standards of quality and freedom from contaminants”.

JMCC will have nearly 1 million square feet of cultivation in Jamaica in 2019. Additionally, the company has agreements to provide medical cannabis to several Canadian LPs, pending Health Canada approval.  The Licensed Producers, who may be more focused, product-wise, on the recreational market.  No names have been announced, as Ms. Scott is waiting until the QA process is a little further along.

DS: They’ve chosen to import our current offering to complement what they’re doing for the Canadian market.  What we do is 100% medical – we are not in the recreational space.

What the LP’s are doing is focusing on recreational, THC-dominant strains.   As recreational use expands throughout Canada, it is argued by some and feared by others that the push for greater cost-efficiency, profit, quality and potency of recreational cannabis will sublimate the medical cannabis space, as it may be perceived that the underlying reasons for its continued existence, which has been protected in both past and present laws in Canada, may seem less relevant.  This conundrum is real, and speaks to the need to differentiate the consumers of medical cannabis from the recreational consumer, as they have very different needs.

DS: We have specifically been requested by customers to look for strains that will be part of mental health formulations for PTSD in Australia, for pain management for part of a cancer clinical trial, and we’re also cultivating for the FDA orphan drug, first-phase trial for acute myeloid leukemia, so this is heavy ‘science-focused” as I would say it.  Our customers are LP’s, not just in Canada but in other parts of the world, bringing something to the table not available in their domestic markets.

Pain and anxiety management are not the only areas of interest.  Apparently there is one particular strain in Jamaica well-known for its properties promoting sexual health and JMCC has been tasked to find it by a customer with a line of products in this area.  I did not find out the name of the strain.  If I did, this article might have been written from Jamaica.

It has been well established that the primary motivation of the recreational cannabis consumer is entertainment.   The euphoric sensations produced by the THC in cannabis are sought after and continue to be refined.  From dried flower with THC concentrations of 20%+ to waxes and concentrates that are in excess of 80% THC, the appetite for these products is expanding.

Medical cannabis consumers have different needs and the products they require are often very different from the rec consumer.  In order to relieve symptoms such as pain, nausea, joint stiffness, sleep disorders and anxiety, caused by cancer and its treatment, PTSD, epilepsy, arthritis, and myriad other conditions. Greater concentrations of the non-psychoactive components, CBD, and all the other complex molecules present, but largely unknown or under-researched may be needed.  A recreational consumer may find a product like this relatively unentertaining.  A medical consumer may value a product like this just to feel able to function normally.

DS: Our big request right now is for a ’10/10’, 10% THC, 10% CBD, which is very much focused medicinally.

JMCC recently invested $2 million US over 10 years to identify, analyze and preserve Jamaica’s indigenous cannabis strains.  This began a line of inquiry as to how that effort is going.

DS: We believe very much that as recreational demand increases around the world, that there is a danger of over-hybridization, not just in Jamaica, with some of the truly medicinal strains and so we felt strongly enough to propose to the Jamaican government that we jointly create this study to ensure that we capture those strains.  The tissue cultures are kept at the Scientific Research Council and they’re there for generations to come.

It’s easy to see the attractiveness of Jamaica and its long association with cannabis a branding tool for the JMCC, but it is clear in our discussion that this is not the motive –rather, it’s the country’s less-well-known history of research into the healing powers of cannabis that are of greater value.

DS: If you look at what the University of the West Indies was doing back in the 70’s, they had four patented cannabis-based drugs; one was for asthma, one was for glaucoma…they had real drugs that were patented and being used in the market.  We have the advantage of having scientists that are ahead of the game and have been for quite some time.

CD:  Are you planning on producing any downstream, or more refined products from your cannabis, such as vaporizers, pills, etc.?

DS: When we started JMCC, we really started it to be the best grower that we could, ie. ‘how do we create a very consistent, high-quality supply of the product to the world, from Jamaica.?’  We kind of stopped at just producing dried bud…”

Recently, JMCC partnered with Resolve Digital Health, a Canada-based developer of cannabis formulations, brands and smart devices, to supply both the medicinal cannabis, and processing, packaging and distribution services for Resolve’s inhaler pods outside North America. The deal is expected to close at the end of 2018.

CD: What do you hope to accomplish at this conference?  What message are you here to deliver?

DS: With the legalization that happened [in Canada] in October, we are certainly seeing that there is a shortage of supply for patients, and that is something that we have to fix. There has to be priority given to patients to make sure they have what they need, that we are giving them high-quality, affordable product, and that first and foremost, medicine is being delivered. I have great concern that, not just in Canada, that as the world moves to recreational, that we have too much of a blurring of the lines. That is just not going to be good for patients, and that for us as an industry, we will not have been doing our jobs.

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