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Erika-Rae Harvey | Cannabis licensing tips for the would-be applicant

Published:Wednesday | August 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Erika-Rae Harvey

Following the recent reforms of the laws related to cannabis, many persons may be wondering how to participate in the legal cannabis industry.

The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) was established in 2015 by the Dangerous Drug (Amendment) Act to among other things, issue licences for cultivation, processing, retail sale, transportation and research of legal ganja and hemp products under an organised framework.

Any person or entity wishing to operate under this framework will be required to go through the application process as set out in the Dangerous Drugs (Cannabis Licensing)(Interim) Regulations. Here are some noteworthy tips if you have been considering getting into the industry.

The CLA website is a useful tool and starting point in understanding the framework, the types of licences one can apply for and how the authority operates. Specifically, the frequently asked questions section answers most basic questions relating to licensing.

An applicant can apply for more than one type of licence. You can submit multiple applications at once if you are interested in operating in multiple aspects of the industry. For example, you may want to have a licence to cultivate and then another licence to process or transport the cultivated product.

Rastafarian organisers of faith events at which ganja will be consumed, must apply to the Ministry of Justice to have that event declared exempt. The result is that attendees will not be liable for possession at the event as long as they comply with the conditions set out in the order.

Individuals wanting a cultivator's licence must be living in Jamaica for three or more years. Companies applying must be registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica and must also be substantially owned and controlled by a Jamaican resident.

Applicants and their employees are thoroughly vetted. Individuals with criminal records will not be allowed to apply and, likewise, companies with directors with local or foreign criminal records will not be allowed to apply. In addition, you will be required to submit police reports with each application for all your proposed employees, along with certified passport photos and copies of two separate government-issued photo identification.

The retail licence breaks down into three categories. You may apply for a licence to operate as a herb house retailer, a therapeutic service retailer or as a pharmacy/dispensary.

The regulations describe a herb house licence as one that allows the sale of ganja not exceeding two ounces and in accordance with a medical prescription or recommendation on specified premises, with the option of consumption on the premises.

While the act and the regulations do not give a detailed description of therapeutic services, the CLA website does define it as allowing the provision of therapeutic or spa services utilising ganja products.

The pharmacy/dispensary licence is also described on their website as allowing the sale of ganja products for medical, scientific and therapeutic purposes. It should be noted, however, that the recent regulations do not cover the pharmacy/dispensary licence.

You will need a solid business plan. The application process is not a simple one and it is advisable that applicants make detailed business plans and apply for all the necessary licences based on their business objectives. For instance, a cultivator must estimate its anticipated crop yield, the type of ganja that will be grown as well as demonstrate to the authority that an agreement exists between the cultivator and any downstream purchasers of their goods.

Completing the application, therefore, becomes easier for the applicant who already has a well-thought-out and comprehensive business plan.

These tips merely highlight examples of what might be entailed in becoming a licensed operator in Jamaica's legal ganja industry.

The requirements are often licence-specific and categorised. It is therefore advisable that applicants consult their attorney or the CLA directly in order to fully appreciate what will be required of them.

Erika-Rae Harvey is an attorney with the law firm DunnCox in Montego Bay.