Tue | Oct 20, 2020

Buffer zone policy being sought to protect local ganja industry – Shaw

Published:Monday | November 25, 2019 | 12:08 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Shaw
Shaw

WESTERN BUREAU:

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Audley Shaw says the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) is seeking to establish a buffer zone policy of a minimum of four miles between medicinal hemp sites and ganja farms to prevent the cross-pollination that can destroy the country’s ganja industry.

In 2015, Jamaica amended the Dangerous Drugs Act which allows for the coexistence of both medicinal hemp and ganja. The policy was put forward for regulatory purposes and does not provide any threat to the local ganja industry.

“We are establishing protocols that relate to a four to 10 miles buffer between a medicinal hemp site and a formal ganja cultivation site. This methodology is used across the United States and in other jurisdictions,” said Shaw, while speaking at Friday’s ceremony to break ground for Virtudes Hemp Farm in Lennox Bigwoods, Westmoreland.

“Our hemp policy preserves this four-mile zone [and] only female plants will be used for both medicinal hemp and ganja, further reducing the risk of cross-pollination,” Shaw added.

He said a phased approached has been adopted in respect to medicinal hemp cultivation in Jamaica and that the county is not encouraging industrial hemp, given the danger it poses to the ganja industry.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that what we are encouraging in Jamaica through the Cannabis Licensing Authority is not industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is the type of hemp that comes in male and female form and that is the one that can be destructive to our ganja,” noted Shaw.

“The medicinal hemp that I am talking about is in the strain. It is in the first stage of the cannabis stream, so much so that United States government, late last year, actually approve a Farm Bill for the formal approval for medicinal hemp and they are on their way. They now have the formal approval for cannabis to be traded within each state of the United States,” added Shaw.

FREQUENT MONITORING

Shaw said there will be equal and frequent monitoring of medical cannabis and medical hemp farms to ensure compliance with the policy, and the absence of male and hermaphrodite hemp plants. He said the country’s cultivation practices for medicinal hemp are similar or, in most instances, identical to cultivation practices for ganja.

“So what is going to be done here (Virtudes hemp farm), certainly at the outset, is large greenhouses are going to be established, where it is in the greenhouses that the hemp is going to be produced,” said Shaw.

“In fact, research has shown that if medicinal hemp is appropriately cultivated, it poses very little risk to the ganja industry because the medicinal hemp is female hemp, [which] we are dealing with. Just like the cannabis, we are dealing with the female cannabis and, in fact, the danger with the industrial hemp is that you have the male and female, and that is what can cause the destruction and the problems.”

Things are currently looking up for the local ganja industry as the United States Congressional Judiciary Committee approved a landmark bill on Wednesday that will decriminalise and tax marijuana on the federal level, representing yet another significant step in global cannabis liberalisation efforts.