MoBay ganja farmer unhappy with CLA
At least one western Jamaica-based ganja farmer has come out openly in challenging what he says is the Cannabis Licensing Authority's (CLA) lack of readiness to preside over a properly regulated legal ganja and hemp industry.
During a recent town hall meeting in Montego Bay, officials of the CLA were taken to task by businessman Orville Powell, after he was told that the authority did not have a blueprint on how to export ganja, and were also unaware of any importers who were waiting in the wings to do business with local ganja farmers.
"At this stage, where we are about to grant licences, I would have thought that the CLA would have gone through all of that [plans for a regulated ganja industry] already," said Powell, in expressing his disgust with the organisation. "The monies that we plan to make from this industry, this cannot be from the local potheads alone."
In speaking to Government's projection to earn approximately US$2 billion in revenue annually from the ganja industry, once it becomes a legitimate enterprise, Powell said it is difficult to envisage that happening, based on the tardiness of the CLA.
"It can't be for us to be cultivating more weed to smoke ... . We must be looking to break barriers, we must see it as a business," argued Powell, the outspoken owner of Montego Bay United Football Club, the reigning national Premier League champions.
In seeking to defend the CLA, its chairman, attorney-at-law Cindy Lightbourne, sought to explain that while there might not be a legal export market for ganja in place at this time, significant strides were being made locally in terms of the development of products from ganja.
However, the CLA explanation did not satisfy Powell, who also went on to challenge the four-month waiting period for the approval of a licence, arguing that, based on previous utterances by the CLA, some persons had already started growing ganja in anticipation that they would have been granted their licences.
"Me a grow ganja and a grow more than what is within the law (two plants per household)," said Powell. "Legalise me now, man. If the police come a me place and lock up me, a unno cause it, because unno a tell me to set up me things."
Powell's sentiments are generally reflective of the views in the west, where many persons who are desirous of getting into a legal ganja industry feel that despite a claim by the Government that the small farmers will not be left out, they will be push aside by entities with big money.
"I have to see a small man get a licence before I believe it will happen", said Empress Tita, a female Rastafarian ganja farmer. "What is happening is a smokescreen to separate Rasta from any benefits from ganja ... you mark my words."
TYPES OF LICENCES
However, the CLA, which has had at least three town hall meetings across the island to explain aspects of how the regulated ganja industry will work, says it is doing its best to keep potential ganja entrepreneurs informed.
According to Lightbourne, individuals and groups who are interested can now go ahead and apply for any of the five available licences - cultivator, processor, transportation, retail, and research and development. She said the requisite information, to include fees, can be found on their website at cla.org.jm.
"We do understand that there are a lot of requirements, but we are dealing with an industry that has to be heavily regulated, so you do need a lot of requirements," Lightbourne told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum.