Since legalization, Canada has faced barriers concerning cannabis shortages, and experts claim this growing issue could last for years to come. With producers unable to deliver the quantities being demanded of them, there is a need to find a solution so that medicinal users are able to receive the high quality product they require.
To assist in this, Jamaican Medical Cannabis Collective (JMCC) has purchased 49% ownership of the 250-acre Kirkpatrick Farms near Montego Bay in Jamaica, giving it a minority stake that’s enabled it to develop its largest single cultivation site yet. This has given it the necessary space to create custom greenhouses that range in size from 3,000 to 9,000 square feet each. So far, the first 90 greenhouses have been shipped to the island. With these resources, JMCC will help to supply medicinal island-grown herb to patients in Canada and around the world.
To get a deeper understanding of the company’s goals, what this means for Canadian patients, and how Jamaican locals will benefit, we spoke with JMCC Chair and CEO, Diane Scott.
How will JMCC’s investment help to preserve the cannabis strains that are native to Jamaican land?
We are funding a 10-year study by a consortium of Jamaican research institutions, led by the National Foundation for the Development of Science and Technology to identify, isolate and conserve local landrace strains of cannabis for medicinal use. The goal is to provide an economically valuable legacy for the Jamaican people.
Considering all of the hybridization that has already taken place, especially to create high THC varieties for the recreational black market, and as the cannabis industry develops, there is a very real risk that strains more suited to medical uses might be lost. It is our hope that by cataloging and preserving these strains, we will be able to help ensure that generations to come can benefit from the medicinal value found in Jamaican cannabis.
The funding is provided by the JMCC Foundation, in which we’re investing 10% of annual net profits over 10 years in an endowment to support local scientific, educational, environmental and community support programs.
Why does cannabis need to be outsourced to meet medical distribution needs?
We have seen an increase in Canadians registering to access medical cannabis. Add to that the recent legalization of recreational cannabis and the subsequent strain on federally licensed producers to meet demand, it is logical for Canada to look beyond its borders to help ensure there is enough appropriate product on hand to get it to patients, medical researchers and medical product producers in a timely manner.
We are solely focused on medical cannabis and are working with Health Canada and with Canadian licensed producers to get patients the cannabis they need. With Jamaica’s year-round growing conditions, we can offer a sustainable, high-quality supply to Canadian patients.
In what ways will this impact the long-term cannabis shortages in Canada that have been projected?
Health Canada statistics are starting to show that the issue may not be supply, but rather access. Preliminary data from late 2018 shows approximately 93,000 kg of dried flower and between 20-23,000 liters of oil was in the supply chain but was not packaged, labelled, or ready for sale. If this is the case, this seems to be less a story of a supply shortage and more about the balance between patient and consumer access.
At the end of the day, patient access is what JMCC is most concerned about. We need to make sure that patients can get the product they need: product that is high quality, safe, readily available, and affordable.
What steps will JMCC take to involve smaller farmers on the island? How will the company’s training and assistance benefit them in the long term?
It’s important to me that JMCC has a positive effect on the communities in which we operate.
Between licensing and start-up costs – for example, the very stringent security and tracking requirements – getting into cannabis cultivation is a huge challenge for smaller farmers everywhere. Jamaica is no exception. We are inviting small farmers in Jamaica to partner with us, so that they can grow their first crops on our own secured sites. They bring their agricultural expertise, and we provide training in areas such as cultivating to international medical standards, as well as ongoing guidance, support and guaranteed pricing.
We also make a point to hire local Jamaican workers wherever possible throughout our operations and we emphasize and support ongoing employee training and development, fulfilling our commitment to building economic development capacity in Jamaica and helping to develop a prosperous, sustainable domestic medical cannabis industry.
Will JMCC be able to offer the island-grown strains for recreational purposes as well?
No, both international treaties and Jamaica’s cannabis laws permit medical-use only, and that’s where we want to stay. We have no plans to enter the recreational market.