Ganja/University deal as UTech partners with Ganja Labs USA

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter

Saturday, February 21, 2015

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BALRAM Vaswani chairman and 'chief ganja officer' of Ganja Labs USA and the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) on Monday, February 16 signed a three-year agreement to develop high-quality ganja strains.

It forms the latest drive to formalise the medical ganja industry. The strains would grow under controlled indoor and outdoor conditions. But both parties offered no immediate plans to sell the drug as it still awaits clearance to grow it legally.

"The collaboration will involve development of a public/private joint venture regarding a specialised laboratory, and indoor and outdoor state-of-the art greenhouses at the Papine campus of UTech," indicated Claire Sutherland, senior director, International and Institutional Linkages at UTech in a mailed response to Jamaica Observer queries.

She added that the collaboration with Ganja Labs a subsidiary of Ganja Inc would allow UTech to play a "leading role" in the development of the medicinal marijuana industry. Ganja Inc formed in 2009 was an early entrant into the legal marijuana business in Denver, USA. Last year, Vaswani transitioned from CEO of Marley Coffee Limited in Jamaica to join the Marley Coffee operations in Denver, Colorado, USA. However, shortly thereafter he joined Ganja Inc and affiliated companies as chief ganja officer.

"Jamaica is known for producing the high-quality Blue Mountain Coffee and this collaboration will allow us to determine different unique marijuana strains that can be produced in the Jamaican environment, potentially enlarging the internationally recognised brand Jamaica," stated Sutherland who described the emerging medicinal marijuana industry as a "game-changing" development.

Early preparations are underway but a definite timeline for cultivation remains undisclosed.

"Production will begin after the necessary permission and licence to UTech are in place under the anticipated Dangerous Drug (Amendment) Act, 2015, and any other relevant legislation and regulations. This legislation, when enacted, will make legal provisions that will facilitate scientific research on medicinal marijuana by accredited and approved tertiary institutions in Jamaica. As the national university, UTech is making preparations to contribute to the development of the medical marijuana industry through advancing science and technology that underpins medicinal marijuana research and development, and the industry itself," she stated.

The collaboration with Ganja Labs USA will help to keep UTech on the cutting edge of science and technology in fields and disciplines related to a medicinal marijuana industry in Jamaica -- for example, pharmacy, alternative medicine, herbology, rural development, natural products research, business, entrepreneurship, and culture, she said.

The agreement between Ganja Labs and UTech doesn't preclude other companies from forming similar alliances.

"No. UTech has several active MOU partnerships in various fields of study with universities and other institutions across the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The university continues to seek strategic and mutually-beneficial partnerships. In the area of medicinal marijuana, strategic partnership opportunities are established in distinct areas for potential scientific research and technology investigation," Sutherland told the Observer.

The development of this industry was fast-tracked since moves by Parliament to begin the process of decriminalisation of the drug last year.

"UTech is the institution where early research on marijuana in Jamaica began and which has contributed to the potential that is now being seen in medicinal marijuana. The university continues to explore and engage in new and under-researched areas that are critical to science and technology and Jamaica's national development, such as medicinal marijuana," she reasoned.





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