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Jamaica can be leader in ganja research, says Colorado lobbyist

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 09, 2014    

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FOUNDER of the United States-based Strains of Hope, Josh Stanley, is urging Jamaica to grab the opportunity to become a world leader in scientific research on the marijuana plant, as the world moves towards the decriminalisation of the plant for medical uses.

Stanley's Strains of Hope is a non-profit organisation formed to assist in the accessing of cannabis.

Speaking at the Jamaica Observer's weekly Monday Exchange, Stanley, a native of Colorado, said the 'economic fruits of ganja are ripe for picking' and a delay to decmiminalise the use of the weed for personal uses could be detrimental to the country's fight to rebuild its ailing economy.

Jamaica has been a world leader in medical marijuana research with the drugs Canasol and Ashtmasol, used in the treatment of glaucoma and asthma, respectively, developed locally since the 1970s.

"Jamaica has an opportunity and must not give it up; if they don't pass the torch they can become the epicentre [as] UWI (The University of the West Indies), UTech (The University of Technology)... can become the epicentre of medical marijuana research. It can revive the nation," Stanley told Observer reporters and editors.

He cited, as an example, his home state of Colorado which had been experiencing an economic recession and is now making US$20 million in profits after decriminalising ganja.

"What Jamaica stands to gain right now? Everything. But you don't just have it from a decriminalisation perspective. This industry has so many gamuts -- industry, economic, social, health and medical. It's an economic stimulator if it's industrial hemp, medicinal hemp or industrial ganja. If you look on the litmus test, Colorado is your petri dish. So, I am here to help Jamaica step out of puddles that Colorado stepped in which were many," he said.

Stanley said there was initial opposition to the move by some sections of the Colorado community. But when people heard the 'miracle stories' of children -- with severe cases of brain seizures who had no motor skills and doctors had sent them home to die after all conventional treatment had failed -- completely recovering after being treated with medicinal ganja, the mood changed dramatically.

"I want to treat every paediatric epileptic child in Jamaica. That's how it gonna start. You are going to win hearts," he said.

Apart from brain disorders, medicinal marijuana has been used to cure post-traumatic stress disorder, heart disease, arthritis and type l and ll diabetes.

According to Stanley, diabetes has affected more than 10 million Chinese who traditionally consume a lot of rice, so the Chinese Government reached out to Strains of Hope and granted them land to grow marijuana with the aim of producing pills to help stave off an impending epidemic. "They have given us 2,000 acres of land to grow the plant and produce pills to give to the younger Chinese," he said.

He also said war veterans who take opiates -- narcotic opioid alkaloids found in the opium poppy plant -- have been giving them up for a marijuana by-product and have seen significant improvement in their mental health and are now proving to be less of a danger to society as they recover from their traumatic experiences on the battlefield which results in post-traumatic stress disorder.

But Stanley's advocacy is dependent on how soon Jamaican legislators banish the law criminalising the possession of ganja for personal use from the law books, which head of the National Council on Drug Abuse Professor Wendel Abel said would be prudent if done soon.

In 2001, the Ganja Commission recommended that marijuana be decriminalised for personal, medicinal and religious use but 13 years later the Government has not budged.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell, however, indicated earlier in the year that by the end of the year marijuana would be decriminalised for personal use.

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