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Jacana opens cannabis dispensary in Manor Park, plans second store

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2020 | 12:32 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter
Jacana medical marijuana dispensary.
Jacana medical marijuana dispensary.

Medical marijuana company, Jacana, on Thursday opened the first of at least two cannabis stores it’s planning for Jamaica this year.

Two years ago, Jacana began cultivating the cannabis plant from a 100-acre farm in St Ann, and today values its investment in Jamaica at roughly US$15 million.

That investment covers Jacana’s development of a pharmaceutical-grade lab and manufacturing facility in St Ann, research and development of the cannabis plant for medicinal purposes, and more recently the opening of a retail dispensary at Upper Manor Park Plaza.

So far, Jacana has brought to market four medical cannabis products – joy, peace, passion, and relief – all catering to different target markets.

Joy, a high-energy range, is curated to alleviate stress, while Peace is designed to help promote deep and restful sleep. The Passion and Relief medical cannabis lines are tested to stimulate the senses, as well as reduce pain and inflammation from injury or ageing, respectively.

“The core of our business is really understanding plant science; that way we appreciate the compounds in the plant and how they affect people. We wanted to make it easy for consumers to understand how to choose cannabis and for doctors to understand what products to prescribe. That required a lot of science and technology,” CEO and co-founder of Jacana Alexandra Chong told the Financial Gleaner.

With the four brands now on the market, Chong and her business partner Tamara Tavares-Finson plan to launch other brands to secure a greater share of the local market. The partners are also in discussion about opening a second dispensary along Jamaica’s north coast.

But before that, Jacana is exploring contract manufacturing services to utilise a portion of the 70,000-kg extraction capacity it has in St Ann, along with the company’s carbon dioxide, or CO2, and ethanol extraction capabilities.

“In the very early days, we were really focused on cultivating organic, sustainable production of cannabis and the building out of a 10,000 square feet pharmaceutical-grade facility. We are now at the stage where it’s important to release the brand,” Chong said.

“Our business model is also predicated on supporting the Jamaican cannabis industry as a whole. We can help other producers test their products; we can produce oils for other farmers. The only caveat is you do have to meet a certain quality that we would audit you on to ensure that we are not bringing any contaminants into our facility,” she said.

The company began exporting cannabis flowers and resin to Canada in 2018. The partners’ long-term plan is for Jacana to earn the lion’s share of its revenue from international markets, and have so far “developed business relations in places such as Germany and Holland to bring this vision to reality”, Chong said.

By year end, Jacana is expected to send its first shipment to Europe for research purposes, with hopes of eventually exporting commercial products to markets there.

“We went a little bit overboard with the packaging, but I felt that if we are really going to introduce a world-class cannabis brand and that Jamaica’s cannabis is the very best in the world, then it means that the packaging should go with it,” Chong said.

“When you look at the products the first thought might be that it’s expensive, but we’ve worked to ensure that our pricing is in line with current market price,” she added.

Jacana employs some 60 staff, 10 of whom are positioned at the Manor Park Plaza dispensary.