Fri | May 24, 2019

Chang wants to ease Rastas’ entry into legal ganja industry

Published:Tuesday | April 23, 2019 | 12:15 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang is supporting the Rastafarian community’s view that it would be an injustice to demand that they pay the exorbitant fees to get a medical cannabis licence, being the true pioneers in promoting the medical benefits of the ganja plant.

The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), which was set up as the regulating body for the medical cannabis industry to issue licences to individuals and companies, has set cultivation licence fees ranging from US$2,000 to US$3,000 per acre, plus application fees of US$300 for individuals and US$500 for companies.

“It certainly will be another major injustice – almost as bad as the brutalisation of Coral Gardens – if, in fact, we start a cannabis industry and the small farmers and Rastafarians, in particular, cannot benefit from it,” said Chang, who was speaking at the Good Friday commemoration event of the Coral Gardens atrocities against Rastafarians in 1963 at the Nyahbinghi Centre in the Pitfour, St James.

“There is justification to getting that done, and as I say, while I am not the minister directly responsible, I think I do have some influence in the Cabinet, and I will work with [Culture] Minister [Olivia] Grange to see to what extent we can include the small farmers and the Rastafarian community, in particular, to participate efficiently in that industry because it would really be a major, major injustice if it don’t allow that,” added Chang.

He said discussions must be had quickly to ensure that the Rastafarians become a part of the emerging ganja industry.

REASONABLE REQUEST

“The request for reducing the licensing fee for members of the small farming community, especially Rastafarians, is a reasonable request. I suggest you put it formally and we can discuss it because it’s a licensing regime set by Government and there is a move to engage small farmers,” said Chang.

Sociologist Dr Mickey Bennett, who also spoke at the event, also called for the CLA to consider a revision of the fees.

“Yes, we have been granted sacramental rights as a result of the amendment of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2015, but I put it to you that, maybe the CLA could waive the licensing fee for those who want to enter the ganja industry commercially” said Bennett.

“It is ironic that Rastafari has been proclaiming this and basically making a point of the healing properties of the herb, and it is only now that we see worldwide that it is being embraced. But Rastafarians suffered for many years for the sake of the herb,” added Bennett.