Medicinal was one of the first companies in SVG to acquire their license to produce and manufacture cannabis products. After months of growing cannabis on their island’s special volcanic soil, the company was ready to kick off their pilot lab a few weeks ago. On October 15th 2020, with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Medicinal Cannabis Authority and the press as witnesses, Medicinal performed the first legal THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) extraction of cannabis on the island. “It surely feels good to be a first mover! It was a truly special moment for us,” says Julian Truchot, Chief Development Officer at Medicinal. “Just to see the first legal THC oil was a big day for me,” Tim Sparks, CO-Director, continues. “And especially for all those people that worked so hard to pass those laws and to make sure that everything was put together the way it should have been.”
Medicinal performed this milestone in a pilot lab located in the capital of Kingstown. “The pilot lab was set up thanks to a collaboration between three entities: Medicinal, Caribbean Gold, and the government of SVG,” says Julian. All the extraction equipment have been kindly donated by ‘Caribbean Gold’, founded by Tim Sparks and Norman Pemberton. The laboratory space was generously offered by the Bureau of Standards of SVG.
“In this pilot scale lab, we are doing experiments over experiments to improve our THC extraction process. The optimized parameters will then be used at a larger scale once the extraction facility is ready. The construction of our extraction facility is going really well.” Medicinal is building a state-of-the-art extraction lab following the strictest EU-GMP guidelines. “Our goal is to place SVG on the map as a first-class pharmaceutical products manufacturer,” Julian points out. “The focus on EU-GMP will allow us to export to Europe; by complying to the strictest standards, we will be able to market our products in most countries”.
A focus on export
Medicinal focus on export is explained by the Director and Master grower Tim Sparks, who is the very same person that helped the government of SVG to write the cannabis regulations. “I worked closely with the ministry of agriculture,” he recounts. “At that time, Jamaica was the only Caribbean island with cannabis laws. So, when we found ourselves making said laws, we knew that we had to focus on the export, because Jamaica did not have any regulation for it, and still doesn’t. So, one of the main focuses when the law was written was export, and there are some companies overseas that have already shown interest in our products.”
Medicinal is looking forward to open their extraction facility in January. “One of the most important things for me is that we will be able to give employment opportunities to some of the great young minds of SVG.” Being a rather small island nation in the middle of the ocean, many talented and highly educated young people are leaving to seek their fortune elsewhere. This ultimately has an effect on SVG as a whole, as all those people ready and willing to contribute to the growth of the island nation are forced to look for a living in another country. “When the extraction facility is up and running, we will have 6 to 8 full time employees,” Julian continues. “And this is huge, because all these jobs are going to be for all those people that were not able to find similar opportunities before here in St. Vincent. Thus far, three chemists came to me asking for a job. They are looking forward in joining an industry that can benefit their country financialy and from a health perspective, while working in a position where they can use all the knowledge they gained in years of study”.
“When God created St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the perfect greenhouse was created,” Tim says. “We have the most perfect volcanic soil: the micronutrients and minerals that came from the volcano when it erupted more than fifty years ago were phenomenal. That’s why the terpene profile we get here is of far better quality than most indoor grows throughout the world. It’s just a pleasure to grow a product here.” Julian continues: “It is no secret that the soil here is perfect; the entire population here is aware of that. Vincentians are growers by tradition. We are not only hiring agricultural degree graduates because some of our employees have been growing fruits and vegetables for years with their family. Once on our team, we give them a formal training so they can reach their full potential.” Tim agrees with that and adds: “We have a lot of traditional farmers employed here, and they have this exceptional love for the plant. It is not just a love of the soil or of the farm, it is the love for a plant to make it into a medicine. It is a gut-driven passion to create the best possible herb.”
“Now, the next milestone is the first export!” Tim concludes.