The Jamaican government is teaming up with Harvard University to establish a Phytomedicine and Medical Cannabis Institute.

The facility will tap into Jamaica’s rich marijuana cultivating heritage and create new pharmaceutical products for export markets. The government hopes this research partnership will make Jamaica more competitive in the flourishing global cannabis industry.

Hon. Audley Shaw, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, said Jamaica’s rich botanical diversity and its long-standing expertise of growing cannabis leaves it well placed to thrive within this emerging global industry. He claimed that Jamaica has 52% of the world’s established medicinal and that more that 85% of the population uses them to treat everything from the common cold to cancer.

But he said that Jamaica has been slow to commercialize this practice and said advances in scientific research and technology could help it succeed. “If you travel around this country, you see a lot of idle lands and you see a lot of idle hands, and we can’t hold on to sugar anymore,” he said. “We now have to move aggressively into diversification, and one of those areas of diversification is the phytomedicine industry.”

Shaw declared that the partnership with Harvard University will help it take plant-based medicine and extracts to a new dimension, while driving economic development as well as healthcare.

A team from Harvard International Phytomedicine and Medical Cannabis Institute is currently touring Jamaica. It plans to visit the University of the West Indies, Natural Products Institute, Biotech Research and Development Institute, the Scientific Research Council, University of Technology and Northern Caribbean University.

Last year the Caribbean nation made its first legal export of marijuana extract oil to Canada. Shaw called it an important first step in establishing Jamaica as a global leader in an industry that is increasingly being legalized and regulated across the world.

Yet the global cannabis industry is extremely competitive and major cultivation projects are underway in Colombia, Portugal, Thailand, and Israel, as well as North America, so Jamaica is hoping to gain a competitive edge through this pioneering partnership with Harvard.

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