Joint venture for Lasco, United Cannabis and CRD

Business reporter

Friday, January 26, 2018

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Lasco Manufacturing Ltd has entered a joint venture valued at US$103 million ($12.8 billion) with US-based company United Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research and Development (CRD) for the manufacture of cannabis-infused water among other cannabis medicinals.

Founder and executive chairman of the Lasco Group, Lascelles Chin, on Wednesday announced that the company has also formed a new company, Lasvac, to manufacture medicinals in the form of capsules, sublinguals, roll-ons and balms for export to the English-speaking Caribbean and Central America.

While tight-lipped on the details, Chin told the Jamaica Observer that the company has secured land “close by” its White Marl facilities and will be able to begin manufacturing in nine months as the required equipment has already been identified.

Lasco has earmarked US$100 million for the manufacture and distribution of the products. Another US$3 million will be provided by United Cannabis, which brings to the project the intellectual property and its long-term experience. CRD will be responsible for growing the cannabis plant locally.

Lasvac is now in the final stage of receiving approval from the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA). Once approved, Lasvac will be importing the raw material for both the water and medicinals from Europe.

“It is therefore important that we start growing in large quantities in Jamaica not only to make the business more profitable, but so that Jamaican farmers can earn a good living,” Chin said.

“Already potential purchasers have visited us from Australia, interested in placing large orders not only for the CBD water, but also for the medicinal products. Enquiries have started to come from several territories including Canada, Italy, Europe, Ukraine. They want the authentic product with the 'Made in Jamaica' label,” he reasoned.

Chief executive officer of United Cannibis Earnest Blackmon told the Caribbean Business Report that the 'Made in Jamaica' label on the products will go a long way for the company — based on the country's culture in growing cannabis.

“The products that we source on the island will come through CRD, but it takes time to get the correct genetics here and you can't bring them in until you have your licence. So, in the meantime we will access high CDB isolates and distillates, which is what goes into our hemp products from licensed manufacture in Europe,” Blockmon said.

Lasco is now urging the CLA to move quickly in approving its application so as to capitalise on the opportunity before the business is lost to other countries. The Ministry of Health has already approved a range of cannabis products from United Cannabis and CRD.

CEO of CRD Kenyama Brown said through its research programme, the company wants to develop strains adaptable to the environment and will engage the College of Agriculture Science and Education, among other institutions and retirees across Jamaica, to breed strains suitable for the business model.

“I'm not saying that they don't exist, but they are not existing in sufficient quantities for us to distribute it. The law empowers you to have five trees, but part of the difficulty is that when you don't have the right strain it's a task, because the specie is not accustomed to our environment and doesn't yield the best quality,” Brown said.

“From this partnership we can now give the seeds to retirees — six months later we collect, we pay. We see this as creating a lot of employment for Jamaica,” he continued.

Medical cannabis is said to be highly effective in pain management, dementia, seizures/epilepsy, cancer, insomnia, multiple sclerosis, among other illnesses.

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