(Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

Denver’s United Cannabis envisions “Ganja Co-op” for Jamaica pot growers

On the heels of Jamaica decriminalizing marijuana, Denver-based United Cannabis Corp. is proposing to create a “Ganja Cooperative” to help Jamaican farmers grow pot.

Marijuana is a cultural icon of the Caribbean island, and farmers have been growing it — successfully — for decades. But under the United Cannabis proposal, growers will have access to high-tech genetics and training in cultivation practices to produce standardized crops.

Jamaica’s Parliament earlier this week passed a law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis — known colloquially in Jamaica as ganja — and establishing a licensing agency to regulate a medical marijuana industry.

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The law also allows adherents of the Rastafari spiritual movement to freely use marijuana for sacramental purposes.

Immediately following passage of the law Tuesday, United Cannabis announced that it had entered into a business partnership with a Jamaican biotechnology firm and the nation’s government-sponsored Scientific Research Council.

Publicly traded United Cannabis last year filed for draft patents on proprietary ratios of cannabinoids — the chemical compounds in marijuana — to treat cancer and nervous- and immune-system disorders.

The patents would give the company 12 months to prove that its combinations of cannabinoids deliver a medical benefit.

“I see the effects our … products have on patients every day, and it’s not just therapeutic; it impacts their entire lives,” said Tony Verzura, chief technical officer of United Cannabis. “The opportunity to verify the anecdotal evidence through the clinical process is the moment of truth. This (Jamaican) partnership will enable us to provide the medical community and policy makers with clinical data to substantiate those results.”

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United Cannabis last year became a 50 percent stakeholder in the newly created, Jamaica-based Cannabinoid Research & Development Co. Ltd.

The enterprise’s mission is to “help restore the purity of (Jamaican marijuana) strains and standardize the breeding process.”

United Cannabis recently said it will team with Native American tribes in California to grow and manufacture medical marijuana products.

Shares of United Cannabis closed Friday at $1.42, down 6 cents. The stock had traded as high as $10.50 a share last April.

Steve Raabe: 303-954-1948, sraabe@denverpost.com or twitter.com/steveraabedp

This story was first published on DenverPost.com