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Get there! - Govt., artistes urged to get a move on

Published:Sunday | March 5, 2017 | 3:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Tony Rebel
Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley
Medical marijuana
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Govt., artistes urged to get a move on

Last week, California voters decided to make the state the fifth to legalise the use of recreational marijuana, after Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. That news has since reignited debates surrounding moves being made in the local marijuana industry, with several persons calling on the powers that be to speed things up.

Reggae artiste Tony Rebel told The Sunday Gleaner that although the Government is taking steps in the right direction, these vital moves have been slow in coming and, as a result of lawmakers dragging their feet, the country has allowed the world to surpass it in an area where it should have taken the lead a long time ago.

STILL LAGGING BEHIND

"Lawmakers are making some well-needed moves as far as 'freeing' up the herb is concerned, but we are still lagging behind. If the bureaucracy is freed up, I'm sure the GDP will skyrocket based on the contributions this industry can make," he explained. "Because of how the world is running with this thing, we might be at a competitive disadvantage if we take too long to get this industry off the ground the right way. We have to get it off the ground now. Unfortunately, we are still struggling with the stigma around marijuana from the earlier years, and that stigma has transferred into the bureaucracy surrounding the laws governing marijuana."

Douglas Gordon, organiser of the High Vibes Roots and Reggae Festival, also agreed that the Government should be moving a lot faster as it relates to establishing a viable marijuana industry in Jamaica.

"The Government is moving in the right direction. They are, however, not making these steps as fast as they should. This industry is a billion-dollar industry and Jamaica has the opportunity to be one of the pioneers in the sector, and even if some of those opportunities have already passed us by, there is such a tremendous potential benefit to be accessed that if we get moving now, we could still catch on," he said. "Progress is important and we are making progress, but we should be pursuing this industry and all its potential opportunities with a lot more dispatch."

Rebel, who has always been an advocate for the legalisation of marijuana, expressed joy at the moves being made in several states across the United States, hoping that their decisions will have a ripple effect in Jamaica.

"What has happened in 'Ganjarado' or Colorado, and 'Ganjafornia' or California, will cause some players in Jamaica to prepare themselves for the business this industry is poised to bring about," he said, pointing out that entertainers, too, have a role to play in pushing the business of marijuana forward.

"This business is about so much more than just smoking a one spliff, so we as entertainers need to put our business hats on. We need to not be afraid of taking risks. We need to invest in businesses, and in our own way, we need to push this industry forward. The Government needs to do their part, yes, but we also need to start discussions and make moves of our own."

ENTERTAINERS' ROLE

He went on to say that advocating for the herb through music is all well and good, but entertainers need to also put their money where their mouth is.

"Let us use this forum to encourage entertainers to look into the business of hemp. Learn about the business, do your research, go to the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) and get the necessary information ... see all the opportunities that are out there," he said.

Agreeing with Rebel, Douglas pointed out that while entertainers can use their mass appeal to push discussions around the industry, other members of society should also seek to invest in the hemp industry.

"It's not just about entertainers and their celebrity star power, that is good. However, this is a billion-dollar industry and so everyone who has a vested interest in the sector should think about pursuing businesses," he said. "Once you have a natural passion for marijuana and you genuinely want to see the industry grow in Jamaica, you should get involved."

Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley (not the only Marley) has been exploring personal investments in the hemp industry, and so far, he says, things are going well.

"We have a dispensary in Colorado that's doing well. I'm actually looking in the future to perhaps change locations, and open a few more locations there in Colorado.

Colorado is a great example of a business model for what legalising marijuana can do to help local economies. In California, the prison renovation is going well. We've actually started to do some work in the prison now, where it comes on to extracts and cultivation and so forth. So that's going well.

"And I haven't applied for my licence here in Jamaica, but I'd like to," said Marley.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com