The launch of a locally owned cannabis oil line has brought the Cayman Islands one step closer to having a medicinal marijuana sector. The prohibition against local cannabis production, however, means the producers must straddle borders to operate legally.
The Lion’s Garden, founded by Caymanians Prentice Panton and Christopher Nixon, began offering prescription cannabis oils and pastes through Grand Cayman’s Health Care Pharmacy in June.
The coconut oil-based line purports to offer stronger THC and other cannabinoid concentrations than alternative products available in the Cayman Islands. Mr. Panton said the brand’s strongest product nears 39 percent cannabinoid concentration.
While the men have developed the brand with the Cayman Islands in mind, they are not permitted to grow marijuana locally. Government legalized medicinal cannabis oils in October 2016 but the product must be imported from suppliers like Canada and Jamaica. As a result, the company has set up shop in Lewis Town, Jamaica, where it has been able to develop and test the product with researchers from the University of the West Indies.
Low labor costs and land prices in Jamaica keep production costs low, but Mr. Panton said he is ready to operate out of Cayman.
“There are so many things people can get into as far as employment. They can get into building the facility in the first place, farming, manufacturing the medicine on island, and the legal side of it. There are a lot of different areas.
“Our ultimate goal is to build our own clinic, but the current focus is on manufacturing and growing,” he said.
If local production were approved, Mr. Panton said, he has 42 acres of land and a water source already available for growing the product in Frank Sound.
He encouraged government to legalize dry marijuana buds in an effort to get ahead on crime control.
“It’s already here. The government gets no revenue from it and there is the crime element,” Mr. Panton said.
The company has also donated a gallon of its oils to Jamaican cancer facility Hope Institute to support research and development. Mr. Nixon said the donation reflects the company’s mission to improve patient care.
“I’m actually doing this to help people more than anything else. I’m not really doing it to make money,” Mr. Nixon said.
The company is in talks to begin exporting the line to the Czech Republic. Other products in development include suppositories for menstrual cramps, cannabis butter and eye drops. Saskatchewan-based CanniMed Therapeutics began exporting oils to the Cayman Islands in May through Professional Pharmacy Services, located in CTMH Doctors Hospital pharmacy. Pharmacies in Foster’s Food Fair-IGA and Kirk Market have also begun importing cannabis-based products.