Don't burn the cannabis cash
The head of a local licensed marijuana dealership is calling for the government to put an end ot the practice of destroying marijuana that is confiscated from illegal dealers by law enforcement.
At present, the police are bound by law to destroy large quantities of the herb that is seized or found in fields that are not owned by licensed operators.
But Joan Webley, president of Itopia Life, says that practice is a counter productive and not in keeping with what obtains in other jurisdictions which have relaxed their laws regarding the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis, popularly called the ‘weed of wisdom’ in some quarters.
Webley pointed to methods employed in Thailand as a model the government could imitate to maximise its financial yield from a plant for which Jamaica has the reputation of producing among the world’s most potent.
“Commercialise confiscated cannabis. In Jamaica, ganja being cultivated outside the licensed system is burnt if confiscated. In Thailand, their national medical cannabis regime allows for confiscated cannabis, once found to be free of contaminants, to be integrated into the national medical cannabis system. They turn the confiscated cannabis into medicines and income for the nation,” Webley told The Sunday Gleaner.
Webley recently took part in United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) seminar in Vienna, Austria, at the invitation of the local Cannabis Licensing Authority, which extended an invitation to the Jamaica Licensed Cannabis Association to send one licensee as a representative.
Webley, who is an intellectual property law attorney and a part of the BSJ Technical Committee on Cannabis Standards, represented Jamaica and exchanged ideas with representatives from Austria, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lesotho, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand.
She also recommended that the Government ease restrictions on marijuana-based edibles as the country is bleeding income due to the ban.
“Remove the ban on edibles. Ingestion is one of the safer forms of medical cannabis, use particularly for elderly, cancer and other patients. Rather than prohibit we need to regulate the space. The Jamaican reputation is widely used to promote edible cannabis products internationally but locally licensed producers are unable to operate in this space. Patients and many small business operators could benefit greatly if this space was regulated,” she said.
“Jamaica needs to know and claim its space. We are a boutique brand. We have a reputation for high quality herb with an emphasis on the experiential element. Our people have a spiritual connection with the herb and it is regularly used (with white rum or as a tea) in traditional medicines. We do not have the land mass or energy efficiency to begin competing with international cannabidiol producers. Guyana and other territories regionally are better placed to do so.”
Webley said that, while no formal report was produced from the seminar, comments will be provided to the INCB Board ahead of a March 2020 meeting where revisions to the provisions covering medical cannabis are expected.
“My biggest takeaway is that each country's climatic, geo-political and cultural norms are shaping the focus or approach of their regulations and industry. Some commonalities are evident and some models instructive. But some differences are stark."
Webley also called for the state to allow for the delivery of cannabis-related products, similar to what obtains in the Canadian jurisdiction where the only form of sale allowed is via delivery through the postal system.
“Conversely, in the Jamaican system, licensed retailers are prohibited from delivering medication to clients. We should also assert and allow for commercialisation of indigenous knowledge: Thailand is again instructive here. In addition to producing oils to EU GMP standards they recognise 16 traditional medical cannabis recipes. Some of these traditional medicines use only the leaves, others use leaves and flowers. The lesson here is that while Jamaica has granted permission to Rastafari and other communities, it should be looking to these communities as authorities who can provide guidance on the uses of the herb based on their inter-generational knowledge. Traditional ganja farming communities can provide similar insights,” she said.