Minister of Industry Audley Shaw, on Thursday (Nov. 21), broke ground for a 113-acre hemp farm in Lennox Bigwoods, Westmoreland.
Virtudes Company Limited, a wellness company, is behind the US$1-million investment.
The company has received licences to cultivate and manufacture hemp-based products, including hemp flower and Cannabidiol (CBD) oils to supply local and international health and wellness providers.
Some 35 farmers from the area have already been employed to work on the farm, which is expected to yield its first harvest by March 2020.
Addressing the groundbreaking, Minister Shaw noted that Virtudes’ investment will further help to establish Jamaica as a world leader in the medicinal hemp and cannabis industry.
“Just as how we have the best ganja in the world, we are also going to have the best medicinal hemp oil in the world. I expect nothing but excellence from you (Virtudes),” he said.
Shaw noted that increased production of CBD oil locally will reduce importation of the product used to treat pain, depression and alleviate cancer-related symptoms, among other health benefits.
“There are major companies that have been set up in Jamaica that are importing all of these CBD oils, and they are selling like hotcakes all across Jamaica. So this farm offers an area of potential [because] I am not into the wholesale importation of medicinal CBD oil of various types that we can produce in Jamaica ourselves,” he said.
In highlighting the potential of the local industry, Minister Shaw cited cancer research being done by noted scientist, Dr. Henry Lowe, including developing medicine derived from a special strain of marijuana to treat pancreatic cancer.
“Dr. Lowe has come up with a drug that has gotten the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States of America [and] that is being developed as an orphan drug,” Shaw indicated.
For his part, Chief Executive Officer of Virtudes Company Limited, Jamiel Jamieson, said that “everything that we are doing is for Jamaica and the communities”.
“I appreciate everyone that has been instrumental in helping us to bring this project to fruition. Virtudes Hemp Farm will be introducing another innovative business venture under the cannabis umbrella to the local market,” he said.