First Look

UTech, Jamaica and Ganja Labs USA break ground for Ganja Research

University of Technology | 2015-11-12 00:00:00

The University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech., Ja)  in partnership with Ganja Labs, LLC, USA on Wednesday, November 10, 2015 officially broke ground at the site of the first state-of-the art Medical Marijuana Research Grow and Extraction facility located across from the historical silos on the North East of the University’s Papine campus. 

The milestone follows from UTech, Jamaica’s receipt of a licence on May 14, 2015 from Hon. Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining to cultivate marijuana for scientific and medical research.

The groundbreaking was preceded by a brief ceremony held at Mais House adjacent to the Papine campus and nestled in the historical setting of the former Hope estate and the Farm School on which the university is located.

Prof. Colin Gyles, Acting President, UTech, Jamaica in his welcome noted that the groundbreaking was a historic moment in the life of the institution, pointing out that medical marijuana research has been longstanding and had its genesis at the former College of Arts Science and Technology (CAST) where early incubation took place.

Emphasising that universities exist to do research, the Acting President acknowledged the work being done by the University-wide UTech, Jamaica Cannabis Collaborative group in executing the terms of the University’s licence to grow and research the plant for medicinal purposes.  Prof. Gyles affirmed that “with the current global interest in research and commercialization of cannabis and hemp for medicinal, cosmoceutical, nutraceutical and functional foods, UTech, Jamaica intends to improve Jamaica’s capacity to reap the social and economic benefits that are expected to be realized from this nascent industry.”

Mr. Balram Vaswani, Chairman, Ganja Labs, LLC, USA explained to the gathering of  members of the local and international scientific and business community, that the research facility will include laboratories for indoor and traditional outdoor growing conditions for medical marijuana. Twenty-eight (28) strains will be grown and tested for efficacy in medicinal use – 7 indica, 7 sativa, 7 hybrids, and 7 high CBD strains in the first phase of the pilot project. Small farmers across the island could benefit from the research at the facility. Special comparative research and experimentation will be done, including on nutrients and various methods of pharmaceutical extraction. The first plants will be planted on December 1, 2015 with the first crop expected by March 2016.  The second phase will involve tests and extraction at the curing facility.

Dr. Ellen Campbell-Grizzle, Dean and Associate Professor, College of Health Sciences and team lead of the UTech, Jamaica cannabis initiative, highlighted the recent advances made by the University in pharmaceutics and clinical testing of marijuana and Jamaican indigenous plants with medicinal potential. Dr. Campbell-Grizzle who also chaired the ceremony, noted that members of the team, in their visits to different parts of the island over the last several months have recognized the need for providing indigenous cultivators who have developed their own formulations over the years, with the scientific “backative” for their practices. She noted UTech, Jamaica is committed to providing assistance in this regard “to ensure that our country benefits from this social experiment.”

Hon. Phillip Paulwell, in his address congratulated both institutions on the pivotal step in the contribution to the development of a legal and regulated medical marijuana industry in Jamaica. He encouraged the university to establish a centre of excellence in marijuana research, on par with excellence for which we are known in sport. “I commend the parties in this venture: our national university, the University of Technology, Jamaica and Ganja Labs LLC, who we welcome as investors as we develop the nation's marijuana industry. The facility we break ground for here today will be the first in Jamaica purpose built for and dedicated to the cultivation and research of medical marijuana. This has been a long time coming: before this year it was illegal for anyone – even those doing scientific research – to grow marijuana in Jamaica, and long has been the cry of our scientists, whose research has been stymied by law and policy”.

The Minister further pointed out that although Jamaica “enjoys a robust reputation internationally for ganja in popular culture, our achievements in the scientific research of the plant and its medical and therapeutic applications are not as well known. As a nation, Jamaica will not develop without our scientists, and as we move further into cannabis research we need our scientists to have access to the most advanced science and technology in the world today. I am pleased that so many experts are here to lend their knowledge, and I look forward to the many publications that will emanate from the research conducted here. Today, law and policy is catching up with science and innovation. Today investment is affirming the quality of our scientists and the opportunities for world class research here in Jamaica”.

Dr. Claire Sutherland, Senior Director, International and Institutional Linkages, UTech, Jamaica gave special thanks on behalf of both organizations to Ambassador the Hon. Burchell Whiteman, OJ, former Acting President, UTech Jamaica “for his instrumental work in taking the first steps in re-igniting the university’s seminal contributions to scientific developments in medical marijuana and forging strategic international partnerships with entities such as Ganja Labs, LLC.”

Posted By :Michelle Beckford

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