Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Use ganja to create wealth for Jamaica, says Shaw

Published:Wednesday | June 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Build Expo's chairman and founder, Dwight Crawford, says the country's vast amount of "out-of-use cane lands" should be used to capitalise on the growing popularity and economic potential of industrial hemp.

At the same time, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw has suggested that Jamaica establish a legal marijuana and hemp industry so that the country can achieve the economic growth for which it has been aiming.

According to Crawford, Jamaica is uniquely poised to be a major beneficiary of "this growing phenomenon" of industrial hemp and "we should use up the lands" to "the benefit of our people".

"There is more cane lands that are out of use than those that are being used," he explained. "Industrial hemp has been generating billions of dollars for economies globally and can do the same for us here in Jamaica. We have the lands and should use this opportunity to tap into this lucrative market."

Crawford added that over time, the use of industrial hemp has evolved into an even greater variety of products, including health foods, organic body care, clothing, construction materials, biofuels, and plastic composites.

"Not only can hemp be used for an astonishing number of products, its net environmental benefit is impressive. Among the more salient features, hemp grows in a variety of climates and soil types, is naturally resistant to most pests, and grows very tightly spaced, allowing it to outcompete most weeds," Crawford added.

Crawford further noted that the second staging of the Build Expo and Conference, slated for the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St James, from June 8-11, also comes against the backdrop of legislation that was introduced from the United States Senate floor nearly two months ago by US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which would see hemp recognised as an agricultural commodity and removed from the federal list of controlled substances.

Known as the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, if successfully passed, it will have major implications for both the US and international agricultural sectors, including Jamaica.

In the meantime, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw, who will be the guest speaker at the opening ceremony this Friday, said the hemp phenomenon and its potential for agriculture, and by extension the Jamaican economy, "is as real as it gets."

"I have been saying for a while that the time will come for the establishment of a legalised marijuana and hemp industry where we can achieve the level of economic growth we have been aiming for," Shaw noted.

 

CAN'T AFFORD TO MISS BOAT

 

"Jamaica cannot afford to miss this boat. Where there is no vision the people perish, so we must change our mindset and get ready for success. We must be bold while ensuring we meet all of our international obligations.

"We will build an industry in Jamaica where we process and manufacture value-added products and not export raw materials. This is about an opportunity for small farmers who will now earn from land which is presently sitting idle," he said.

This, he said, was important to Jamaica's tourism industry, "where Jamaica will be positioned as the medical tourism capital for the world, bringing health and wellness to the world".

Jamaica is uniquely positioned, he added, to play a leading role in the medical marijuana industry.

Accordingly, the country "must move with a sense of urgency and turn ganja which has been a negative for Jamaica into a major asset, creating wealth for our country," said Shaw, Jamaica's former finance minister.

Pointing overseas, he said the American market for legal marijuana is predicted to rise to US$21.8 billion by 2020.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com