In Summary
  • His research hasn't been just out of love for horticulture.
  • The scientist has also developed an entire marketing plan for the landrace cultivar.
  • The marketing material refers to a "pure" and ancient herb, used by Bob Marley -- a seductive pitch to cannabis lovers in countries and regions that have legalised its use, such as Canada and some US states.

A supreme ganja, smoked by Rastas and even Bob Marley himself in the 1970s?

This pipe dream of every self-respecting ganja aficionado is becoming reality again thanks to the horticultural talents of a scientist in Jamaica.

Amid mangos, lychees and other jackfruit, Dr Machel Emanuel has planted a field of cannabis plants measuring dozens of square meters -- cannabis cultivated in the open, in greenhouses or in his lab in the botanical garden of the Biology Department at the University of the West Indies in Kingston.

His specialty: landrace cannabis, which grew naturally in Jamaica before it disappeared as a result of human intervention.

"In the 50s, 60s, 70s, Jamaica was known for its landrace cultivar which definitely gave Jamaica that international reputation," the rasta doctor explained, dreadlocks hanging down his back.

The plant is adapted to its environment and with "unique growing characteristics based on its flower, on the smell, on the flavor, even on the euphoria" it delivers to those who consume it, he said.

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailers -- founding members of the celebrated reggae group The Wailers -- used landrace cannabis, he assures, amid the soothing, tropical ambience of his little garden of Eden -- or Jah, the Rastafarian word for God.

The reggae legends' ganja, he says, would not have been as strong as modern, artificially created cannabis, which has higher levels of THC -- the plant's main psychoactive ingredient.

But in the 1980s, during the US war on drugs, landrace cannabis was easily spotted because of its height and destroyed, and cultivation of the plant was abandoned.

Over time, easier-to-hide hybrids replaced the landrace cultivars.

DOCTORATE IN BIOLOGY

Enter Dr Emanuel. The 35-year-old from Dominique has grown cannabis since 2001, moving to Jamaica in 2007 to pursue his studies.

His doctorate is in biology, with a specialty in horticulture and the adaptation of plants to climate.

A lover of ganja himself -- which he doesn't smoke but rather consumes by means of vaporization or aromatherapy -- Emanuel decided to recover the lost landrace varieties and reproduce them in his lab, where Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, considered a Messiah by Rastas, gazes out from photos on the walls.

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