Toronto-based Ja­maican Medical Cannabis Col­lec­tive has signed con­tracts to pro­vide Ja­maican cannabis to three Cana­dian LPs and let­ters of in­tent to sup­ply seven more

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - By SARAH HAN­LON | @nowtoronto

Lift & Co., “Canada’s medical mar­i­juana mar­ket­place,” held its big­gest-ever expo in Toronto from May 25 to 27, wel­com­ing al­most 20,000 peo­ple to the Metro Toronto Con­ven­tion Cen­tre, which was sur­rounded by a slight haze dur­ing the three days de­voted to cannabis ed­u­ca­tion, prod­uct place­ment and trend-watch­ing.

Billing it­self as the last gath­er­ing be­fore le­gal­iza­tion, the event was filled with com­pa­nies poised to hit the new recre­ational pot mar­ket when it fi­nally comes to Canada. Their booths took up two lev­els of the con­ven­tion floor.

But it was the ti­tle spon­sor, the Ja­maican Medical Cannabis Col­lec­tive (JMCC), that took cen­tre stage.

With the sup­port of the Ja­maican gov­ern­ment and the farmer’s col­lec­tive they part­ner with on the is­land na­tion, JMCC has signed con­tracts to pro­vide Ja­maican cannabis to three Cana­dian LPs and let­ters of in­tent to sup­ply seven more. All of these plans are pend­ing Health Canada ap­proval, of course, but there are a lot of peo­ple in­vested in mak­ing it hap­pen, and for good rea­son.

Many pa­tients and ad­vo­cacy groups are con­cerned that Canada’s medical mar­i­juana pro­gram may suf­fer sup­ply is­sues when the recre­ational sys­tem opens up this sum­mer. Leg­is­la­tion that al­lows im­por­ta­tion of cannabis from other coun­tries may end up be­ing cru­cial to keep­ing sup­plies avail­able for Canada’s 269,000-plus medical mar­i­juana users.

But as JMCC CEO Diane Scott ex­plains, it’s about more than just sup­ply. It’s about ac­cess to a di­ver­sity of the finest prod­uct avail­able for those who need it most: medical pa­tients. Canada may be a cannabis in­no­va­tor, es­tab­lish­ing the first medical cannabis regime in the world in 2001, but Ja­maica has a long his­tory with the plant’s medic­i­nal uses.

“When a [Ja­maican] mom or grandma is help­ing a child with a cold, it’s cannabis oil they rub on their chests,” says Scott. “It has been passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion... the deep cul­tural re­la­tion­ship, the medic­i­nal heal­ing prop­er­ties of the plant are all there.”

Ja­maica has been a leader in the science and tech­nol­ogy driv­ing medical mar­i­juana in­no­va­tions since the 1970s. Dr. Henry Lowe, a Ja­maican pi­o­neer in medic­i­nal cannabis drug for­mu­la­tion, re­cently re­ceived ap­proval from the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion for a cannabis-based drug that’s about to go into hu­man tri­als to treat acute myeloid leukemia. JMCC has been cho­sen by Lowe to sup­ply those hu­man tri­als through the JMCC Foun­da­tion, whose mis­sion, Scott says, is to in­vest 10 per cent of an­nual profits to as­sist Ja­maican sci­en­tific, ed­u­ca­tional, en­vi­ron­men­tal and com­mu­nity sup­port pro­grams.

Ja­maica is also lead­ing the way in cannabis hor­ti­cul­ture, es­tab­lish­ing a na­tion­wide ini­tia­tive to pre­serve the in­dige­nous cannabis strains of the is­land. Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis in­for­ma­tion re­source, teaches us that the spe­cific qual­i­ties of in- dige­nous ge­net­ics can be traced back to cer­tain ar­eas of the world.

Cannabis is a hearty plant that can grow in many ar­eas and will adapt over time to its en­vi­ron­ment. Lan­drace strains are ones that have be­come al­most per­fectly adapted to their growing en­vi­ron­ment. Ja­maica’s op­ti­mal con­di­tions for growing cannabis (50 per­cent hu­mid­ity, equal parts day and night, fer­tile soil, moun­tain breezes) have cre­ated some of the best lan­drace strains in the world. But they have an added trait – they’re dis­ap­pear­ing as newer strains are cre­ated through hy­bridiza­tion and cross-pol­li­na­tion.

JMCC has signed an agree­ment with Ja­maica’s Na­tional Foun­da­tion for the Devel­op­ment of Science and Tech­nol­ogy to fund a 10-year study to iden­tify, isolate and con­serve lo­cal lan­drace strains of cannabis for medic­i­nal use. The project will be car­ried out in part­ner­ship with the Na­tional Com­mis- sion on Science and Tech­nol­ogy and, in ad­di­tion to JMCC sci­en­tists, will in­clude the Sci­en­tific Re­search Coun­cil, Caribbean Ge­net­ics, Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum of Ja­maica, the Ja­maica In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Of­fice and lo­cal cannabis farm­ers, as­so­ci­a­tions and co­op­er­a­tives.

The over­all ob­jec­tive of the study is to ap­ply ad­vanced plant biotech­no­log­i­cal, botan­i­cal and agri­cul­tural meth­ods to iden­tify, con­serve and pro­tect in­dige­nous strains of cannabis in Ja­maica “to en­sure they are avail­able for fu­ture learn­ing and medical re­search and devel­op­ment be­fore the op­por­tu­nity is lost to over-hy­bridiza­tion,” says Scott.

She be­lieves it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore other coun­tries will fol­low Ja­maica’s lead on the preser­va­tion of her­itage strains.

“Cannabis is ex­pand­ing glob­ally, and you’ve got deep cul­ti­va­tion ex­perts in Ja­maica who are up-and-com­ing, and it can only be bet­ter for the in­dus­try.”

Scott notes that the Lift & Co. expo has been a great ac­cel­er­a­tor for the flow of in­for­ma­tion on an in­ter­na­tional level. “It’s not just about Canada any­more – [other coun­tries] are say­ing, ‘Look what a great job Canada is do­ing,’ and they want a piece of that.”

Pa­tients and ad­vo­cacy groups are con­cerned Canada’s medical mar­i­juana pro­gram may suf­fer sup­ply is­sues come le­gal­iza­tion.

Ja­maica’s op­ti­mal con­di­tions for growing cannabis have cre­ated some of the best lan­drace strains in the world.

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