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Overseas backers push ganja co-op for Jamaica

Published:Friday | September 16, 2016 | 9:00 AMNeville Graham
General Counsel for InCuBis International, Anthony Curiale (centre) speaks to growers Michael Josephs (left) and Dorsal Reid, during the ganja investors symposium hosted by the Kingston and St Andrew Ganja Growers and Producers' Association in collaboration with InCuBis, at Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Tuesday, September 13.

A group of international investors is looking to partner with local interests, particularly small farmers to corner the local and export market for ganja.

InCuBis International is working through the Ganja Growers & Producers Association (GGPASS) to have local farmers join a co-operative to control the marijuana industry 'from seed to sale', according to business consultant Tony Melcher.

Declaring that "the best weed comes from Jamaica", Melcher carefully laid out InCuBis' objectives as the "first incubation partnership in the world" at a Kingston forum.

"We're not an investment company. We're here to partner our intentions, our prospects, our business model is built on you and really partnering with you. We're not here to change, we're here to augment, assist and help you find the success that we're all looking for," Melcher said as he addressed a specially convened ganja investors' symposium on Tuesday.

He noted that Jamaica bears a competitive advantage by having some of the best ganja strains and growing methods in the world. At the same time, he warned, Jamaica will lose this competitive advantage if it doesn't adopt a unified approach to the expanding opportunities in the world market.

"The rest of the industry is fragmented - they're not all trying to work with each other - but we see a competitive advantage, not only in collaboration but having everything under one roof and unified," Melcher said.

Not 'another bauxite'

Citing the bauxite industry to cement his point, Melcher told the symposium that in the face of a fast-dwindling resource Jamaica has not reaped the full benefit from it, while other interests have profited hugely. He urged Jamaican ganja growers not to make the same mistake.

"If this industry ends up becoming 'another bauxite', not only will it be a crime, but frankly you'll only have yourself to blame, because everyone is well aware of the mistakes made in the past and you have a unique opportunity to unify in such a way that Government has to get behind it because this is the right route," Melcher warned.

He said InCuBis is moving to acquire 200 acres of land in the first instance and, using the required licensing, to partner with Jamaican ganja farmers to develop a viable industry along cooperative lines.

"We're going to acquire real estate for the sole purpose of renting it or leasing it back to people in this industry. We want to do this because land is the first principal need in the industry. We also know that when land is developed properly, and if the supply chain is taken into account, it can be the most productive," Melcher said.

He said InCuBis will be taking advantage of all the opportunities along the value chain of ganja cultivation, processing and sale. He says the company will be setting up partnerships that will take care of the transportation necessary to deal with centralised processing.

InCuBis International says it provides professional consulting, business and legal advice to the emerging medical cannabis market in the United States. Melcher says the company has been in business since 1995.

The foreign company's pitch to Jamaican ganja growers, according to facilitator Dr Jephta Ford, was 10 months in the making while InCuBis timed the regulatory environment.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com