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Manley West and Albert Lockhart's Canasol: A significant breakthrough

Dr. Manley West and Professor Albert Lockard, pioneers in medical marijuana research.

Before the proliferation of the study of marijuana in the 21st Century, Manley West, a native of Kensington in Portland, got interested in the medicinal purpose of the drug when he observed fishermen from the neighbouring community of Manchioneal smoking marijuana in order to increase their ability to see fish at night, according to his affiliate professor Errol Morrison, in a recent interview.

West, who attained the position of professor of pharmacology at the University of the West Indies, asked the then commissioner of police for permission to study the plant, since it was an illegal drug, Morrison explained.

After he was granted permission, he began to study various extracts from the plant in his lab at the University of West Indies and very early he realised that he had ‘something’.

Using dogs as the experimental animal, West found out early that one of the extracts would lower the pressure in the eye. “Himself along with the eye specialist Albert Lockhart took it further. Lockhart, as an ophthalmologist, when the product became reasonably clean enough, would be able to use it on some of his patients,” Morrison said. “This made West the front-runner in finding the medicinal purpose of ganja.”

West and Lockhart named the product Canasol.

Unlike later products, Canasol was not made up of significant portions of cannabinoids, Morrison pointed out. “Chemical analysis showed it didn’t really have any significant amount of cannabinoids; those are the THC and CBDs that you hear them talking about,” he said.

West’s discovery sparked the interest of the international community but he was reticent to share his findings, scared that they might steal his idea. “He kept it close to his chest and it never caught on internationally,” Morrison made clear.

West and Lockhart continued their study, and in 2001 they introduced a cannabis-derived medication called Cantimol to treat the potentially debilitating condition of glaucoma.

“Canasol was a significant breakthrough because he (West) was able to demonstrate significant lowering of the pressure in the eye and so it had potential in the treatment glaucoma. Glaucoma is where you have the elevated pressure in the eye,” Morrison explained.

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