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Ganja strain being imported is not available in Jamaica - Hill

Published:Tuesday | March 7, 2023 | 1:46 AM

Several persons have raised questions after the announcement that the Government will allow the importation of cannabis to Jamaica. Aubyn Hill, minister of Industry, commerce, and investment, shared that the strain being imported is not available in the island.

Local cannabis players peeved

Questions raised about large quantity of ganja imported from Canada for research

4 Mar 2023Erica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer 

NEWS THAT the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) has permitted a company with majority Jamaican ownership to import 140 kilograms of cannabis (308.647 pounds) for research purposes has been met with widespread scepticism by players in the industry.

Up to late Friday local cannabis industry interests were still awaiting a response from the CLA to explain the terms and conditions under which commercial quantities of marijuana will be imported to Jamaica from Canada, a trading partner, with a notation that it is for research purposes.

The Government and CLA have been asked to confirm the details of what was imported and for what purposes and to state the policy going forward.

Only research permits have been granted by Health Canada of Jamaican marijuana. “It’s a Jamaican company ... . They have to follow the rules which are in legislation… The ganja strain being imported is not available in Jamaica. The permit is granted depending on the licence you have. Some people have licence to grow, others to test and some to retail …” Aubyn Hill, minister of Industry, Commerce, and Investment, told RJR’s Hotline host Emily Shields on Friday.

It could not be ascertained what the strains are and whether they are available in Jamaica as a promised statement from the CLA with more detail did not come at midday and up to 6 p.m. on Friday.

There has been angst in the industry since it was revealed that the company, in which some Canadians have a minor interest, has been allowed to import when Jamaicans are not allowed to export in commercial quantities.

Only 10 kilograms (22 pounds) have been exported to Canada in total, and with the strict caveat that it must be for research purposes only.

According to industry operators, the amounts being imported into Jamaica are commercial quantities, and seemingly not for research. There is no detail on the form of the imports, whether it is planting materials or finished products such as oils or buds, but the portfolio Minister Aubyn Hill said the total represents six, or seven strains that are not available in Jamaica.

During the Standing Finance Committee examining the Estimates of Expenditure on Wednesday, Hill fielded questions from Anthony Hylton, a former minister and current Opposition spokesman.

Hylton has called Hill’s disclosure of the amounts being imported for research “hogwash”.

According to Hylton, “It does not matter who the importers are or who has more shares in the importing. It is hogwash. It is hogwash to expect anyone to believe that we are importing that much for research purposes. That would be never-ending research, even if that company is solely into research,” he told The Gleaner on Friday.

He said both the exporting and importing country has issues on which they must agree and those agreements are very granular.

At least one Canadian company has pulled out of business here as Jamaica is unable to export to Canada and the investment losses were piling up.

Jamaica can export to countries with which it has a trade agreement, and legal medical cannabis industry, but must export under the strict conditions of the licences.

“The issue for me is one of reciprocity, and the product and the movement of the products. The issue of ownership is neither here nor there. The key issue is the vision of the Government for the development of the industry. That quantity for research is just nonsense. I can bet my dollar that this is not for research. If so they would be doing it for years and years,” Hylton insisted.

He said the United States is the largest producer of ganja and has been setting up its system export and has adopted a protectionist regime, while Canada has been growing greenhouse ganja.

Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, president of the Jamaica Cannabis Licensed Association, said the importing company is a registered company with the CLA and licensed to operate in Jamaica.

A minimum of 51 per cent ownership has to be Jamaican, he said, under the arrangement. He dismissed with wry laughter that the amounts being imported were for research. “Look here. When we send samples or anything to be tested, we retain samples, its 10 -12 grams that we retain. Grams. These are commercial quantities, not for research. You would need 10 grams per strain depending on how many tests would be performed. But without a doubt these are commercial quantities,” he told The Gleaner.

He said there was a lot of anger in the industry as answers were being sought.

Lewin, however, defended the CLA for criticisms it has received regarding the pullout of a number of companies with Canadian interests. “It’s part of the problem that local companies, Canadian interest cannot export to Canada, and they predicated their investments here based on a view that they would be able to export to Canada…” Lewin said on Hotline.

Meanwhile, the health ministry, which has stated its objection to the recreational use of marijuana, but has supported medicinal use, is one of the bodies that must sign off on any licence to import, according to Hylton.

Yesterday Health Minister Christopher Tufton said he could not be absolutely sure if the ministry was required to sign off and also did not know where the ministry had signed off in this instance.

But he accepted that discussion must be held given the issues in the industry. “The health ministry would be party to, at the level of the board, to any conversation that takes place about all aspects of the industry given how it may impact individuals.”

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