THIS country may be late in the research of the medicinal value of marijuana, but it is not too late to step up to the plate, Professor of biotechnology and plant microbiology Jayaraj Jayaraman says.
Speaking before a Joint Select Committee (JSC) meeting on social services and public administration at the Parliament Tower in Port of Spain, Jayaraman said, “We have the capability to this kind of research. We are late, but my worry is we must not be too late.
“Cannabis does not belong to North America. They have established and we are already too late. The biggest stumbling block is the legalities. We could collect the full range of samples in TT, engage in research in propagating them and get legal permission for the research department to undertake the necessary research, so we can see where if any opportunity arises in TT in producing drugs like Epidiolex. We don’t need to copy, we can do something different,” he said.
Medicinal cannabis is considered one of several traditional medications people in other countries are turning to for treating specific ailments. The question is, were these legal and were they regulated.
Nigel Jalsa, lecturer, chemistry/biochemicals who also spoke at the JSC, said marijuana was very poorly studied in this country. He said it has been taking up a lot of steam since last year with research throughout the world and could almost be described as low hanging fruit. He said TT had the techniques to isolate and characterise the compounds in marijuana.
Committee chairman Dhanayshar Mahabir, who had lobbied for the use of medicinal cannabis, questioned whether Epidiolex, used for child epilepsy could be prescribed by doctors as cannabis is still illegal.
Jalsa said the issue facing medicinal marijuana was the component THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) which was responsible for the adverse psychoactive effects, and which was only one of 600 components present in marijuana. CBD (Cannabidiol ) and terpenes were the ones that had the medicinal benefits.
Asked whether they could do the type of research necessary to produce a marketable product, Jalsa said they had the techniques to isolate and characterise it. However, professor of pharmacology Yuri Clement said they did not have the capacity to do that because of the cost, the resources and infrastructure needed.
Asked if he thought there was potential here in TT, given the type of cannabis here, to conduct the necessary research at the University of the West Indies to identify the types of compounds to get some competitive advantage in the farming industry, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences Prof Terrence Seemungal said this would require interest and funding.
He added they would not undertake such research unless they had permission from the ethics committee. Asked if they would be able to supply people who were prescribed Epidiolex, president of the Pharmacy Board Andrew Rahaman said since it was cannabis-based, the medication would be stored with other drugs such as morphine and codeine under secure conditions, as they did with all other narcotics.
He said pharmacists were the only ones with a licence to store these drugs. Mahabir said as far as he could tell, TT may very well have the competitive advantage given the resource constraints and did have the intellectual property for research.
TT may be late in research of the medicinal value of marijuana, but it is not too late to step up to the plate and catch up with other countries. This according to professor of biotechnology and plant microbiology Jayaraj Jayaraman at the JSC meeting on social services and public administration yesterday.
Jayarama said the biggest stumbling block was the legality of the herb and availability of funding. He said TT did not need to copy anyone, but do something completely different.
Nigel Jalsa, lecturer, chemistry/biochemicals, said marijuana was very poorly studied in this country. He said it has been taking up a lot of steam since last year with research throughtout the world and could almost be described as low hanging fruit. He said TT had the techniques to isolate and characterise the compounds in marijuana.