UWI urged to take lead in marijuana research


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A Barbados Government legislator has criticised the University of the West Indies (UWI) for its failure to lead the regional efforts on the research of marijuana for medicinal purposes, Jamaica’s Observer reports.

“We have this talent at the UWI and we should have been at the forefront of marijuana uses for diseases, for medical purposes. We should have been at the forefront,” Government Senator Jeptor Ince told the Senate Wednesday during the debate on the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and Other Health Professions (Incorporation) Bill, 2016.

Ince, the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Finance, told legislators that he was disappointed at the position of the UWI and warned that the Caribbean was at risk of being left behind if the regional educational institution continued to focus on some of the traditional subjects it offered.

He insisted that the UWI had to look at research in medicine as a way to boost its revenues, saying it was also clear that the marijuana industry was exploding, particularly in the United States.

“I am of the opinion that once the United States reaches the stage where they have found the remedies in marijuana for a lot of diseases — because right now, in most of the states, they are learning the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes — they are going to issue licences… to bring that product into countries, and we are going to be left standing here saying if we had known.

“I am confident the research needs to be done; not only that, but in other areas. So, don’t let us sit back… let us implement with haste these things that are important, Ince said, adding that “education is an investment… We have produced some of the best academics anywhere in the world and I am still bothered that we have a UWI… that is not doing enough research”, he reasoned.

Earlier this year, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves called for a collective Caribbean approach regarding the trade and other benefits of marijuana cultivation in the region.

“We have to have the studies. That is why I advocated the Caribbean marijuana commission. In the changing global context of marijuana use, Caribbean economists and other relevant professionals, including those in the pharmaceutical industry, ought to be ahead of the curve in conducting relevant research, not rehearsing traversed territory,” Gonsalves said in an address to the launch of 40th anniversary celebrations at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies.

In 2014, regional leaders, at their summit in Antigua, announced the establishment of the commission as they discussed the means of decriminalising marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The commission will “conduct a rigorous enquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the region, and to advise whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana, thereby making the drug more accessible for a range of users”, according to the communiqué issued at the end of the summit.

Caribbean Community Secretary General Irwin LaRocque said then that the objective of such a commission on marijuana “is to conduct an inquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Caribbean”.

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