Pepper spray product in limbo
The ballooning crime problem and the recent increase in attacks on women have led to calls for more options for self-protection.
Years ago, one local entrepreneur created a pepper spray product using local Scotch bonnet that would be suited for the purpose.
Entrepreneur and founder of Future Services International, Yaneek Page, invested nearly $1 million in the product, formulated with assistance from the Scientific Research Council (SRC). But, inconsistencies in the law have prevented her, for nearly 10 years, from bringing the product to market.
Now, one senior cop thinks "it is really high time" for the law to catch up.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell told Gleaner Business that he would support "any attempt" to have the issue of women using pepper sprays as a means of protection acted on by the relevant governmental agencies.
Powell said women need tools to be used "in defence of themselves in light of the attacks". However, he also cautioned that pepper may also be used as weapons, and as such: "Any wide-scale use of it must come with some precautions".
Currently, consumers would need a licence to carry pepper spray, which they would have to prove is intended for personal use and protection. This arose from a declaration by the court following Page's efforts to move ahead with her product. [Page writes a business advisory column for this newspaper].
The court ruled that pepper spray is legal for personal protection, but individuals must obtain a licence.
Imports of pepper spray are only allowed for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force, former Customs boss Major Richard Reece told Gleaner Business.
Page engaged the services of the SRC in 2009 to develop her formulations and even found a company in China to make the product, since no local company had the capacity to do so.
But after paying the SRC $120,000 to create the formulation and trying so many years to get production going, Page said Friday she has been unable to move forward due to legal and regulatory inconsistencies in local laws.
While pepper spray is not on the list of banned substances, it is a controlled product under the Firearms Act and the Offences Weapons (Prohibition) Act.
While the Jamaican Government has largely dragged its feet on setting the framework for pepper spray, Trinidad & Tobago has made progress on production of pepper spray from its scorpion peppers.
"We still have a viable product that we would love to produce for the local market. However, we have to be practical; there has to be clarity about the regulations that apply. Until then, it wouldn't make economic sense for me," Page said.