is being repurposed and put to more beneficial uses, he said. McLaughlin noted that chemical and gene profiling have allowed researchers to classify cannabis plants not only by the names the farmers give them, but also by the plants’ colouring, their unique chemical compositions as well as by the genes that will make them less susceptible to contamination from heavy metals and other impurities. “Now we are not only able to track the plants but also look at other genes that are important to the plant and its survival. We can now identify those plants with high and low THC and CBD levels as well as identify male and female plants,” the forensic scientist said. The UWI-MC Research Group are light years ahead of the authorities and were ready with numerous project ideas covering all areas of medicine and science by the time the University received its exemption permit last year. “The lobby (for legalisation) had the widest cross section of people and professions I’ve ever seen,” Professor McDonald laughed. The result, he explained, is that The UWI is already working on scores of projects ranging from basic science studies to pre-clinical and clinical studies, all in an effort to expand knowledge of the therapeutic uses of cannabis.
At the same time, the medicinal research is being enhanced by the ongoing chemical and DNA analyses of the plant. McLaughlin agreed that with so much of the gene sequencing and identification of the chemicals already complete, the work done by his team has slashed several years from the expected start-up of clinical trials. It also makes possible the start of the planned Pain Clinic by year’s end, just about coinciding with the start of clinical trials at the University Hospital of the West Indies. The United States medical marijuana industry is expected to earn as much as US$13 billion by 2019 up from US$2.7 billion in 2014. It is expected that The UWI and indeed Jamaica can earn a significant share of the global market from pharmaceuticals, bringing jobs and much needed development. But there will be no products to smoke at The UWI’s medical research facilities, even with the US$100 million in monthly sales the US State of Colorado reportedly makes from medical marijuana.
“Now we are not only able to track the plants but also look at other genes that are important to the plant and its survival.” Professor Wayne McLaughlin
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ZADIE NEUFVILLE