It would be appropriate to call Dr Machel Emanuel a ‘son of the soil’ in more ways than one. Not only does the scientist and Rasta hail from the Nature Island, he has been making waves in the region and beyond in his field of Horticulture, with research concentrated in the area of Tropical Horticulture for Cannabis sativa.
Currently, Dr Emanuel is the Principle Investigator of the Life Science Cannabis Research Group in the Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies Mona Campus. This means that the bulk of his work is conducted in Jamaica, where he has undertaken the task conducting research on a specific type of ganja which once grew on the island.
The decline of these landrace cultivars ( as they are called) is mostly due to human activity. Years of aggressive targeting by law enforcement and the resulting destruction of crops and seeds led to the cross-breeding of this local marijuana (of the sativa variety) with imported temperate plants (of the indica variety), in order to protect the livelihood of farmers. Specifically this cross-breeding produced hybridized, smaller plants with less visibility and quicker turnover in islands such as Jamaica and St. Vincent.
According to Dr Emanuel, the fact that the original landrace cultivars are particularly adapted to the Caribbean’s climate, given that cannabis is actually a temperate and sub-tropical (not tropical) plant, is what gives them their distinct properties and makes them special. Therefore, the potential for the Caribbean’s production and supply of a niche product in the cannabis industry is particularly ripe.
When asked about the implications for the island of Dominica, he notes that Dominica is unique, stating that “…the importation of these temperate cultivars would be minimal in comparison to the other producer countries. Also the rugged topography in Dominica reduces the levels of cross pollination and allows for farmers to maintain the landraces.”
This fact allowed Dr Emanuel to source the landrace used in his recent study at the University of the West Indies (comparing the landrace, indica and cross-bred strains) from a farmer located in the isolated heights of Dominica. The study confirmed that the landrace strain excelled in various conditions when compared to the other strains.
Yet, the aspect which has gained Emanuel’s work the most international attention is that before its eradication the local Jamaican ganja which he studies was used and celebrated by Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley.
Of even greater significance is what Dr Emanuel asserted in his communication with DNO : “The unique euphoria experienced by these cultivars could have value within modern day medical applications once the research such as clinical trials are done.”
The global climate concerning the use of marijuana has seen dramatic shifts in recent years and Dr Emanuel, having achieved several distinctions and awards in his field, is one of the current forerunners for the creation of a specialized cannabis industry in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. He acknowledges that “the strengths and weakness of each local jurisdiction and enacting the right policy framework” will need to be understood in order to effectively develop the industry.
When asked about his vision for the future of ganja cultivation in the region, Dr Emanuel cites the huge potential for cannabis to contribute sustainably to the regional economies.
“We need to understand the forward, backward and cross linkages across sectors and industries such as agriculture, health, tourism, to maximise the true earning potential of creating a cannabis economy,” he states.
The excitement surrounding his research is no doubt a boon to Emanuel and his team, who are successfully laying the foundation for this vision to become a concrete reality in a region with a rich and complicated ganja culture, by assisting governments in creating the right standards and regulations for the enablement of establishing the Caribbean Cannabis Economy.