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Foreign investor plans cannabis beer and edibles, but CLA says no way

Published:Friday | November 8, 2019 | 12:30 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter

C anterbury Group, a Cayman Islands-based investment firm, has set up a company under the name, Jamaican Brew House Hops and Herbery, through which it intends to produce cannabis-infused beers.

The company, which was launched on October 15 by a team of self-styled “seasoned beverage industry veterans”, two of whom have registered addresses in the Cayman Islands, has put forward plans to grow cannabis in Jamaica for the manufacture of cannabidiol- and tetrahydrocannabinol- infused products – two natural compounds found in the cannabis plant.

“We are excited to officially announce the launch of Jamaican Brew House and introduce our proprietary new botanical process to the beer industry,” founder and CEO of Canterbury Group, Jamaican Brew House’s parent company, Erin Winczura said in a statement. “We saw a need in today’s marketplace to create a great-tasting and natural cannabis product that could also be commercially distributed.”

Jamaican Brew House was incorporated September 19, with registered office at Swallowfield Road in Kingston, according to Companies Office of Jamaica records.

While Winczura makes clear her enthusiasm in starting what Canterbury claims as the first and only company in Jamaica to use a patent-pending botanical process to naturally create therapeutic flavours, the Cannabis Licensing Authority, CLA, has its own adverse views on the business model.

“The Authority would not have jurisdiction over edibles; however, it is my understanding that the Ministry of Health and Wellness, at this time, does not support cannabis-infused food products,” Director of Research Development and Communications Felicia Bailey said in response to queries from the Financial Gleaner about approvals for the venture.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015, which has decriminalised ganja for specific purposes, allows for the establishment of a medical marijuana industry. However, the health and wellness ministry recommends that medical cannabis products have a maximum tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, content of five per cent based on concerns about the potential negative public health effects that may arise.

THC is said to be the main mind-altering ingredient found in the cannabis plant.

Jamaican Brew House’s cannabis beverages are expected to include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, ciders and seltzers. Already, the company said it is testing the product mix and plans to release cannabis-infused beers, ciders and seltzers through commercial distribution in Canada, Jamaica and other international countries by early 2020. The products will be created two different blends, one with CBD made from hemp, which contains only 0.3 per cent THC, and one made from marijuana plants, which has a higher concentration of THC.

Still, Jamaican Brew House has not been issued any licences from the CLA, which is a requirement for any marijuana-related enterprise.

Efforts by the Financial Gleaner to get a comment from Winczura on the status of application to the CLA and the health ministry’s stance against the use of edibles containing cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic purposes were unsuccessful.

Canterbury said in its statement that it has appointed Jaime Jurado, industry veteran and former international president of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, to serve as Jamaican Brew House’s brewmaster, and Richard Bertram as business consultant.