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Shaw high on weed - Minister sees increased earning potential for Jamaica

Published:Sunday | October 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Agriculture Audley Shaw (right) and Canadian high commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters at the PROPEL presentation Highlighting Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Women and Youth through Agribusiness at the Canadian High Commission in Kingston last Thursday.

Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw has expressed optimism about Jamaica's earning potential from ganja in light of Canada's legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.

"The signal to us is that we can't continue to flirt with cannabis because cannabis has now conclusively been demonstrated to be a drug-related plant that is medicinal and has properties that are incredible. Even the great United States has concluded, 10 years of research is now showing that it is a healthy and appropriate alternative to opioid.

"And we know what's happening in the United States with the pharmaceutical lobby is why it is lagging behind Canada in terms of its potential," he declared on Thursday.

"But there is still hope because the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has already approved a cannabis drug to fight epilepsy in children. A local scientist, Professor Henry Lowe, has received approval from the FDA to produce an orphan drug, cannabis-based, to fight a particular strain of leukaemia ... . So it is really a good and exciting time for us and we are so happy that the government of Canada has been so helpful," Shaw said.

An orphan drug is a pharmaceutical agent developed specifically to treat a rare medical condition referred to as an orphan disease.

Shaw was delivering the keynote address at the closing ceremony for the six-year Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprise and Linkages (PROPEL) at the Canadian High Commission on Thursday. He also outlined plans for the rationalisation of idle sugar lands when he went off script and directed the following remarks to Canada's High Commissioner to Jamaica, Laurie Peters.

"Cannabis, High Commissioner, you have more than a passing familiarity with that ... not you, personally, but (last Wednesday), your government and your country formalised cannabis - the first G-7 country in the world to legalise cannabis."

The Canadian Senate last Tuesday passed a bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis with a vote of 52-29, making it only the second country to do so, after Uruguay, which in December 2013 legalised the production, sale and consumption of marijuana.

In America, nine states and the District of Columbia allow for recreational marijuana use, while 30 allow for medical use.