Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Small ganja farmers overjoyed at approval of regulations

Published:Friday | May 6, 2016 | 5:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham

Potential small ganja investors are overwhelmed that regulations to guide Jamaica's legal cannabis industry have now been approved. Yesterday, a week after being appointed by Cabinet to lead the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), the new board of directors approved the regulations to start the process.

"When we heard, we were overwhelmed that finally, after over 100 years and many being persecuted for this highly medicinal natural herb that our forefathers have always known holds the key to curing so many diseases, legal steps are being taken to develop it as an industry," Omar Gordon told The Gleaner.

"The cultivation of ganja holds the key to Jamaica's overall development, whether it be educationally, culturally, medicinally, or economically."

The Rastafarian ganja farmer said other small farmers like him, both locally and internationally, have long had an interest in developing the industry in a more structured and beneficial way.

He said among their concerns, however, is that whatever cultivation and harvesting method is used will maintain the integrity and quality of the Jamaican standard that has long been sought after.

Now being chaired by attorney-at-law Hyacinth Lightbourne, the CLA will begin accepting applications from players hoping to enter the ganja industry.

The CLA, which was created by the Dangerous Drug (Amendment) Act 2015, has powers to make and oversee the implementation of regulations for licences, permits, and other authorisations for the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale, and transportation of hemp, as well as ganja, for medicinal, scientific, and therapeutic purposes.

 

Don't apply to hemp products

 

The board pointed out, however, that the regulations that have been approved address the licensing regime for the ganja industry and do not deal with hemp products, which will be addressed in regulations to be developed.

With these initial regulations now approved, the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel will now move to finalise the document for the signature of both the chairman of the CLA as well as the minister of justice, ahead of being submitted for gazetting and entry into law.

Paul Burke, programme director of the Ganja Future Growers and Producers Association, said the group was also pleased with the news as members of the association have been waiting to begin the licensing process since 2014.

Stating that he hoped that the authorities would ensure that the industry is built from the ground up, Burke also called for the licensing fee to be minimal.

So far, he said, about 2,300 people have expressed an interest in securing licences in various categories.

In the meantime, Karl Samuda, the minister responsible for the CLA, congratulated the board for the speed with which it developed the regulations, acknowledging that it was due in large part to the level of continuity it employed.

The CLA noted that while it awaits the passing of the new regulations into law, it will be convening town hall meetings in several parishes during the last two weeks in May.

anastasia.cunningham@gleanerjm.com