American pharmaceutical company set to trial cannabis-derived drug on diabetics in Vanuatu

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American pharmaceutical company set to trial cannabis-derived drug on diabetics in Vanuatu
Pacific Beat
By Prianka Srinivasan


A villa on a pristine beach in Vanuatu.
PHOTO: Current laws in Vanuatu prohibit the cultivation of marijuana. (Vanuatu Department of Tourism/Kirkland Photos)


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An American company has opted to trial a new experimental cannabis-derived drug on diabetics in Vanuatu as a result of stringent Federal laws preventing the trial in the United States, according to the company's chief executive.

Key points:
  • Vanuatu is chosen as the trial site also because of its "pristine" environment
  • Amendments to Vanuatu's laws will allow the company to cultivate marijuana in the country
  • There is currently no evidence showing that cannabis works in the treatment of diabetes


The company, Phoenix Life Sciences International, was headquartered in the US state of Colorado but relocated their operations to Vanuatu earlier this year to carry out clinical trials.

Current laws in Vanuatu prohibit the cultivation of marijuana, but the company is planning to import the pills from a third party in the meantime as it awaits amended legislation to pass.

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In a recent opinion piece in the International Business Times, the company's chief executive, Australian-born Martin Tindall, argued that the global cannabis industry is set to be worth $US31 billion ($43.2 billion) by 2021.

But he believes the US will be excluded from the market because the Federal Government is "clinging to prohibition".

"As the founder and CEO [of] an adaptive healthcare solutions company developing cannabinoid-based medicines, I have an intimate appreciation for the effects of federal prohibition," he wrote.

"Unable to carry out research into cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals for diabetics in the US, we were forced to relocate our first production centre to the Republic of Vanuatu in the South Pacific."

The ABC's Pacific Beat program sought to clarify those comments with Mr Tindall, who previously said he chose Vanuatu as the site for the trials because of the country's diabetes epidemic.

Mr Tindall backed the comments, saying: "Well you can't produce [it] in the US and export around the world when it is federally illegal."

"So that is what I mean by forced.
"There was definitely no force from the [government], we just felt that we couldn't achieve what we wanted to achieve there," he said.

Sweeping views of the water from a summit in Vanuatu.
PHOTO: Mr Tindall said cultivating the marijuana used in Vanuatu would also help to reduce costs. (Flickr: Vjpaul)



But there are also other reasons Vanuatu was chosen as the trial site, he said, including Vanuatu's "pristine" environment for growing marijuana.

"It has the right levels of sunshine, the right levels of overall climatic conditions," Mr Tindall said.

"For us to produce yields that are similar would require a greenhouse in Australia and North America."

He said cultivating the marijuana used in the trials in Vanuatu would also help to reduce costs.
 
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