Top Female CEO in Medical Cannabis Focuses on Patients, Community, and Science

Diane Scott, owner-CEO and Chair of JMCC, recently spoke with us about the medical cannabis landscape, the important research her company is involved in, the roles women play in the industry, and more.

A phrase we often hear is that “cannabis is medicine” and should be treated that way. It’s an important distinction to make for all medical cannabis patients who are invested in improving their health through the benefits of medical cannabis and not the “high” associated with the recreational market. Diane Scott, owner-CEO and Chair of JMCC, shares this important view on medical cannabis and has based her company on the primary goal of providing the best medical cannabis for patients on a global scale. Scott recently spoke with us about the medical cannabis landscape, the important research her company is involved in, the roles women play in the industry, and more.

Can you tell us about Jamaican Medical Cannabis Corp. (JMCC)? What led to its founding? What are your goals and aspirations for the company?

Diane Scott: JMCC Group is a fully integrated medical cannabis company, headquartered in Toronto, Canada and with extensive operations in Jamaica, where the company cultivates and processes medical-grade cannabis. We founded the company in 2016. Today, JMCC is the leading global provider of premium Jamaican medical cannabis products and services to the world.

JMCC is also the only Canadian privately-owned medical cannabis company, and the only female-helmed medical cannabis company, to own its entire supply chain—from propagation and cultivation of raw material supply, product development, manufacturing and packaging, and through to global logistics and distribution in five countries in three continents.

In my years working in banking and investments, I had built a reputation for being a patient investor. All my investments have a human care element. That’s important to me. So, I was approached several years ago about investing in a medical cannabis farm in Jamaica. While I didn’t end up investing in that opportunity, the months of research I’d done led me to believe something big was possible in this field, and so, rather than investing in someone else’s project, I built JMCC from scratch.

I have several goals and aspirations for JMCC. The first is for the company to be the best at what it does. This ethos goes into every aspect of what we do, from constructing the best custom-designed greenhouses and cultivating the best product, to having the highest standards for security, to establishing GDP-compliant warehousing. We strive to ensure that the product that is delivered to patients is of the absolute best quality. This is especially important, given that what we are producing is medicine. Products that patients ultimately are going to use—patients who have compromised immune systems, or who could be at the end of their lives.

My second goal, and this is the case with all my investments, is to ensure there is a corporate give-back component; something that will leave the world a little bit better in some way. And so, everything I invest in must have societal benefit. In fact, we completely reject the notion that because an investment has a societal benefit you have to compromise profit. Our model proves that's not the case. JMCC is a great example of this, whether it’s through our collective model where we work with small farms to our foundation in Jamaica which reinvests 10% of net profits back into communities and focuses on things such as education, community development programs, and scientific and medical research.

What challenges do you face as a Canadian company working internationally with medical cannabis? Are there regulations or restrictions that you have to adhere to?

Scott: I don’t think we face challenges as a Canadian company. In fact, I think Canada is seen as one of the leading countries in the medical cannabis space. I think where the issue lies is that when legalization happened in Canada, a lot of companies jumped on the bandwagon hoping to make a quick dollar. They grew quickly and we saw that some didn’t necessarily abide by the proper standards or regulations. Now, we’re also seeing some companies retract, which has impacted share prices, and so some people view our industry with some skepticism. I don’t blame them. We need to show a sustainable growth plan and we’ve done that at JMCC. We have purposefully grown slowly, taking time to research and decide what was the right move at each step of the way, and that is why we continue to grow. I think our partners and clients recognize that and it’s what helps draws them to us.

As a medical cannabis company, we are really handling medicine, so the highest standards must be met. And, because we distribute globally, we abide by the highest international standards in the medical industry, including good manufacturing practice (GMP), good distribution practices (GDP), and good agricultural and collection practices. We grow in the best natural environment in the world, in our opinion, and we are also working towards having our products certified as organically produced.

Recently you created a division called JMCC Scientific, how does this sector work on developing cannabis-based medicines?

Scott: JMCC Scientific came about because of two major initiatives. First, two of our bio-tech customers asked us if we would consider creating formulations on their behalf, so of course we had to consider this option.

Secondly, we were invited to be one of just five companies in the world participating in Project TWENTY21 (T21), one of the largest medical cannabis studies ever attempted. The study, being implemented in the UK, is documenting the efficacy of medical cannabis for a number of different chronic conditions. It is enrolling 20,000 patients by the end of 2021, and once it is completed, it is projected to deliver the largest-ever evidence base for medical cannabis efficacy.

We are providing dried product for T21, but as part of the process, we also wanted to consider what is the best product we canprovide for these patients, which is a question we ask in everything we do: how can we be the best we can be? Ultimately, bringing on a team that is extremely focused on the science of the plant, to bring better medicine to patients around the world was the right answer for us, and for our clients. Since starting the division last summer, the team has worked with top medical specialists in each condition area and has developed innovative formulations for pain management, epilepsy, and anxiety delivered in a novel format that facilitates more precise dosing and with improved bioavailability. Again, this is in keeping with our commitment to deliver the best medicine we can to patients.

Can you tell us more about your role with international patient access to medicinal cannabis through Project Twenty21? What are the goals of that project?

Scott: With Project TWENTY21, eligible patients can access affordable medical cannabis treatments, monitored by Drug Science, the study’s sponsor. As I mentioned earlier, this project aims to create the UK’s largest body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis. Drug Science hopes that the findings of Project T21 will provide evidence for National Health Service (NHS) funding for medical cannabis where the benefits of treatment are proven to outweigh the potential risks, so that it’s treated like any other medicine.

This was particularly attractive to JMCC. We we’re keen to contribute to the effort to develop the necessary evidence required for the recognition of cannabis as medicine, because we believe this will help patients, both by improving access and by alleviating costs.

What is the biggest thing you’d like to see change in the medical cannabis market in the next 5-10 years?

Scott: We continue to see medical and recreational cannabis lumped together. I don’t think enough care is taken by policymakers, media, and even industry insiders to differentiate the two. The medical and recreational cannabis markets are very different and serve different purposes. It is crucial that they be regulated as such.

With International Women’s Day coming up on March 8th, what does it mean to you to be the only female CEO in North America handling an international medical cannabis corporation?

Scott: I regularly recognize and am reminded how blessed I have been to have had a lot of help from leaders in the past, both men and women who helped guide my career. But I do realize that not everyone has had the same opportunity, so I really do believe in paying it forward. I love to work with young entrepreneurs, both men and women. I’d say my position comes with an obligation to make sure there are more young women who have the opportunities I’ve experienced in the future.

What I hope people see when they work with me is the best person, doing the best job, and not simply the best woman. I do have to note that I never set out to be the only woman doing what I do. It didn’t really come into my mind. It’s happened as part of the natural evolution of the company, and a result of the hard work of our teams.

Do you have any advice for other women interested in moving up the career ladder in the cannabis industry?

Scott: Do not settle! If you have a vision for your business, you can achieve it if you stay laser focused. It is important not to become distracted by anything that does not help you and your teams to achieve the vision you have for your company. In my case, it was delivering the best possible patient experience. And that includes not settling for “good enough,” or accepting that there is some reason you cannot achieve whatever you aspire to.

Do you find that there is inequality in the cannabis industry against women or women of color (WOC)? What would you like to see change in the industry for WOC?

Scott: I think we see inequality in most industries sadly, and medical cannabis is no different. I can’t speak for other companies, but I believe in, and JMCC certainly supports, equal opportunity for all, period. The JMCC team reflects that worldwide. I am proud to have a team that represents a great diversity of women, men, cultures, social-economic backgrounds—including on my executive team. There are so many brilliant and talented women, including women of color, in our industry that I did not have to look very far to find great people to join our team. Diversity is incredibly important in an organization. It brings diverse ways of thinking, opinions and experiences and can only benefit a company as a whole.

How do you support other women-led organizations in the industry?

Scott: I’ve always loved to meet new people and working as a global executive in highly regulated industries for so many years, I’ve been able to build a really great network! I believe JMCC has benefited significantly from that. So, it’s a natural for me to want to meet and get to know other women in the industry. For instance, pre-COVID, I hosted a private lunch at the National Club in Toronto so that we could just get to know each other a bit. It was our hope that we could continue developing those relationships from there but, unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, and I have not been able to organize another similar event yet.

Outside the cannabis industry, I am an Activator/Investor in women-led businesses in SheEO, which is an incredible group of women, who invest in other women-led businesses. SheEO has a $1 Billion perpetual fund that invests across the globe and I am extremely proud to be a part of a program that supports, finances, and celebrates women entrepreneurs.

In 2019, you were named one of North America’s “Top Female CEOs to Watch” in the cannabis industry by MJBizDaily. Has recognition such as that impacted your career at all?

Scott: It is always rewarding to be recognized in that way. This kind of recognition certainly helps people understand the hard work that goes into building a company and in my case, building a global company, so for me, it was about recognizing the results of the team and what we do every day at JMCC.

Can you tell us more about the social and charitable benefits you’ve launched at JMCC? Why was it important to you that JMCC give back to local communities?

Scott: When we founded JMCC, as we do with all investments we make, we required a component of societal give-back. For JMCC, this is in the areas of science, medicine, and education. To date, our efforts have largely focused on the scientific community and education. For example, we are funding long-term studies to identify and protect indigenous Jamaican strains on the island to ensure they are going to be around for generations to come, and working with, and supporting, the University of West Indies with its cannabis program.

For more about Diane Scott, please visit https://www.jamaicanmedicann.com/about-us.