Irish online magazine “Joe” reports

Dr. James Linden of Greenlight Pharmaceuticals is one of the country’s leading advocates for medicinal cannabis, believing it can alleviate the symptoms of cancer, epilepsy, arthritis and many other diseases and ailments, and he wants to establish massive ‘cannabis farms’ in a number of Irish counties.

“There’s such a huge opportunity to grow cannabis in Ireland,” Linden told host Nick Webb on the latest edition of JOE’s business podcast, The Capital B.

“We’re really good at that, we’ve grown it here for years; the people that grow what you might deem the best medical cannabis in the world grow it under lights in Holland.

“They actually think that our climate is better suited to it than Holland’s because there isn’t the concern about excess heat. So really hot summer days put a strain on the system, and in Ireland we don’t have those.”

Linden believes the authorities are warming to the idea of a fully-fledged cannabis-production industry in Ireland.

“There are regulatory issues but the willingness is there, I believe. It produces an awful lot of tax revenue (if nothing else).”

Facilities in Ireland

He says there has been a degree of openness to the idea of opening a number of cannabis-growing facilities in Ireland, especially in the last six months.

Naming a couple of the locations he has looked at for his endeavour, he added: “We’re looking at locations in Donegal – in Letterkenny – and in Derry. We’d like to go to places where there isn’t a lot of employment.

“We’re also looking at Longford and also around Carlow. You know that garden of Ireland in Lusk? An area that size will be needed to grow the plants to make enough for the global community in medicines.

“To set up a substantial facility, you’re talking about €15m. This is the emerging pharma, biotech sector. I believe that cannabis medicines and other natural medicines will completely take over what we now consider to be pharmaceutical (treatment).”

Linden explained how it’s only in the last 20 years that medicinal cannabis has really taken off as a viable treatment for a range of problems.

“Cannabis has been known as a medicine for thousands of years, but for 70 or 80 years it got a bit lost in the wilderness.

“In the last five or seven years we’ve seen the re-emergence of medical cannabis in the United States, and there are lots of companies trying to get medicines from cannabinoids.”

Linden explained that it’s only since the late 1990s that the technology to recognise the potential benefits of certain cannabis molecules has been in place, and it’s left scientists with something like “a brand new toy,” in his words.

Cannabis seems to interact with “everything” in the human body, says Linden, and he feels the potential health benefits of the plant are boundless.

Open arms

Two and a half years ago, Linden started to closely examine the plant’s potential and says he met far less resistance than he would have initially expected.

“I was met with open arms because there are ailments that are not being helped by current pharmaceuticals,” he told Webb.

Linden explained that it took a while to figure out how to make a viable business out of his medicinal cannabis enterprise, but he ultimately found a strike rate of around 50% in terms of getting funding.

With a research network across 11 universities in Ireland, the UK and the United States, Linden is able to do studies on cancer, epilepsy, arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, asthma and other afflictions across the medical spectrum.

“Cannabinoids seem to have an effect on almost every disease process that you can name,” he says, although he’s quick to point to cardiac disease as one area that the plant’s benefits have not been felt.

Linden says he is particularly excited to take his research on the effect of cannabis on cancer a lot further.

“Everybody’s affected by it, in some shape or form, but we’ve seen thousands of people who’ve used cannabis oil illegally not to cure cancer, but to ease symptoms like pain. It might mean they can avoid going on morphine more quickly, it can boost appetite in people who don’t want to eat after chemotherapy. It can treat nausea.

“It has huge potential.”