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A technician analyses cannabis at The UWI-CARITOX lab.


UWI Cannabis Research Reaping Results


PROFESSOR WAYNE MCLAUGHLIN, co-chairman of The UWI Medicinal Cannabis Research Group and one of the researchers in cannabis at The UWI, Mona, says genetic research into the plant grown in Jamaica has identified a gene that could be useful in the area of plant biotechnology.

This research, which could do with a funding boost, is still in the early stages but is already gaining traction in the media in Trinidad. Its potential to breathe new life into the ailing agriculture sector of Jamaica and the region was not lost on some online readers of the Trinidad Guardian newspaper who commented on the April 5, 2016 article entitled, “Researchers: ganja gene can improve fruit yield”. The article resulted from a press conference following a meeting at The UWI St Augustine’s Campus Council in Trinidad.
“Why is the government of Trinidad and Tobago taking so long to see the numerous benefits that legalisation will bring? I applaud Jamaica for their vision on taking such an early bold step forward to enrich the lives of others from a medical, recreational and economic perspective,” Ryan Diaz wrote in a Facebook post.

Diaz was making reference to the drug law amendments in Jamaica which partially decriminalised small amounts of marijuana while paving the way for the establishment of a legitimate medical marijuana sector. In 2015 the Jamaican Government also gave The UWI, Mona the greenlight to delve into the various potential healing properties of the marijuana plant and to manufacture efficacious products.

“Their [Jamaica’s] economic gains will be seen in time to come. I suspect they have made more advancements than disclosed through their investments in research and development and are currently establishing numerous business partnerships to emerge as a key player in the expanding multi-billion/trillion dollar marijuana industry,” Diaz added.

Another reader, Kristian Haqq quipped: “T&T Guardian, [is] that where they [are] doing the research? If so then why do it all the way over there [Jamaica]? That’s a step forward on Jamaican soil, and a slide down the wrong hill at home [Trinidad].”

Cannabis in the field

Cannabis in the field

Dave Thomas, for his part, expressed concerns in his post about “genetic modifications”.
But McLaughlin moved to clear up this misconception about the ongoing research.
“We have not taken a gene out of cannabis and put it in other plants to increase their growth in production,” McLaughlin told UWIMONA Now.

“Let me categorically state that we are not genetically modifying ganja (cannabis).We have found a gene in cannabis which is similar to a gene found in one other plant that is used in plant biotechnology (genetic engineering) , and will be doing a lot more research to try and find out the role it plays in cannabis,” McLaughlin explained.

Meanwhile, the current research at The UWI, Mona is focusing on genotyping and chemotyping cannabis grown in Jamaica. “This information will provide us with a good database, and assist with the identification and development of strains of cannabis,” McLaughlin said.

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