VANCOUVER – A Richmond, B.C., company has collected 224 marijuana strains from around the globe and has brought them to its fortress-like lab to break the plants down to DNA levels and breed them to treat disease.
MediJean’s ambitions — strictly designed following Health Canada’s new rules on having secure pot facilities — are to eventually set up production capacity on a global scale to supply patients with treatments for ailments ranging from cancer to multiple sclerosis to epilepsy, among others, according to CEO Jean Chiasson.
His facility, strategically located next to a Richmond RCMP station, has a security level just one step below that of military bases. Cameras are everywhere and check-ins and outs for visitors are mandatory. Photographing security devices is strictly forbidden, while its address is withheld for security reasons.
A vault — the centre of what could eventually be a massive distribution system — currently sits empty until the company secures a production licence from Health Canada.
Inside its main lab, scientists tinker with 40 newly developed strains, later moving them to “breeding rooms” and mixing them to create hybrids.
Up to 1,200 new strains can be created in a year.
“We might have two super elite MS (treatment) strains and we’re putting them together to create a new strain that might have even greater potential to heal,” said R&D director Charles Scott.
Unlike many existing medical “grow-ops” — which could be little more than licensees allowed to cultivate pot at home — MediJean staff, many garbed in spotless white lab coats, work to alter the very chemical footprint of existing species.
This is done by breeding to control the amounts of four key ingredients inside the plants, the most common being THC — what gets people high — and balancing it with its lesser-known ingredients to create different effects.
One strain, for example, has completely eliminated the odour, Chiasson said. Tests are also being done to figure out how marijuana could be consumed in pill or other forms — though Health Canada currently only permits dried herb.
A Health Canada production licence, which the company said is “imminent,” would also sprout the next phase of development: patient testing.
“In black market (pot), if you see a bug looking right at you, who wants to smoke a carcass never mind powdered mildew that gets into your lungs,” Chiasson added of his superior product.
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