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'Only the ministry can approve ganja for religious use'

Published:Wednesday | June 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

With a hope to gather additional information in fine-tuning the regulations that will properly establish the industry management framework and strengthen the country's marijuana and hemp industry, the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) hosted its third and final public meeting in Manchester last Thursday.

The CLA,has the power to offer licences to individuals and companies for the purpose of cultivating, processing, transporting, retailing and researching marijuana for medicinal, therapeutic and scientific purposes.

However, with the provisions under a rigid requirements system, farmers and potential farmers of these plants, some of which contain THC levels in excess of one per cent and remain illegal under the Dangerous Drug Act, are doubtful that this will be a viable option for them.

Among the issues highlighted were the cost of licences, which generally starts from as low as US$2,000 up to US$10,000; the non-compliance of financial institutions locally to provide loans to be used as capital for this venture; the number of countries that will issue export licences; and the compliance of local participants with international rules to safeguard Jamaica.

CLA role

"The role of the CLA is to constantly monitor and enforce the industry. That exercise is an expensive exercise, it is one that is necessary to prove to our international partners that we have the ability to separate legal from illegal trade," announced chair of the CLA, Cindy Lightbourne.

While several persons still argue the need for the legalisation of marijuana for recreational purposes, the CLA is clear on its role as a regulatory body, whose licences are used only for medicinal purposes. The agency noted that the Ministry of Justice is the only body that can grant permission for the use of ganja for sacrificial or religious purposes.

"You have to be an advocate now to get this off the ground. This is where your voice has to be heard to get it off the line of [being] a dangerous drug," stated CLA representative Prophet Greg.

rural@gleanerjm.com