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Briefing | No confidence, no trust in the Cannabis Licensing Authority

Published:Tuesday | July 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMDr Andre Haughton


Why is the research relevant?


In order for a country to reap the maximum economic benefits and minimise the health and social risks associated with any commodity industry, it must first establish the correct legislative and regulatory framework to support the industry and its participants. It is therefore paramount to understand how to establish the right economic and legal platform to facilitate an efficient, simple, smart and low-cost business environment that will provide the right balance by regulating business transactions while at the same time, increase the earning potential of households, firms and the Government. The benefits a country derives from the cannabis industry will depend on its ability to manoeuvre its legislative structure to properly coordinate the actors in the industry within the constraint of UN regulations.


What research has been done?


Research was conducted to analyse the perception of the major industry players and interest groups to the cannabis legislative framework and the effectiveness of the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) in Jamaica for the year 2017. Data was collected from survey instruments along with semistructured interviews and focus groups, administered at four major cannabis-related events, including the relaunch of the Ganja Growers and Producers Association of Jamaica, Jamaica 4/20, held at the National Conference Centre on April 20. The sample was representative; cannabis farmers and producers from all 14 parishes, government officials and other interest groups were present and were randomly selected to participate in the study. In other words, all groups that had an interest in cannabis, whether for medical, recreational or economic purposes, were represented within the survey sample units.


Does Jamaica Have the Correct Legislative/Regulatory Framework?


The results from the analysis indicate that 81 per cent of cannabis interest groups in Jamaica do not believe that the correct cannabis legislation has been enacted; only 19 per cent agree that the industry is properly legislated. The results further show that 51.7 per cent strongly disagree, while 29.4 per cent disagree that the Government is displaying the right attitude towards cannabis legislation. As it related to the other ministries, departments and agencies (MDA), only eight per cent believe that the MDAs are taking the right approach towards the global industry, the remaining 92 per cent strongly disagreed, disagreed or were neutral.


Most Cannabis interests believe the CLA is inadequate


As it relates to the sufficiency of the CLA's ability to regulate the industry, 72 per cent of cannabis interest groups believe that the CLA and the Bureau of Standards together are inadequate in their approach towards regulating the Jamaican cannabis economy. Data have supported this anomaly as an alarming 85 per cent of cannabis interest groups have failed to apply for cannabis licences from the CLA, mainly due to the expensiveness of the process (invoiced in foreign currency) and a genuine lack of trust and confidence in the ability of the CLA. Only 13 per cent of the interest groups have applied for a licence, while two per cent are still in the process of doing so. Data has also shown that an additional reason for these interest groups not applying for cannabis licences is related to the process by which licences are granted.


The CLA Lacks Flexibility


In order for the cannabis industry to move forward, any institution that decides to undertake the regulatory responsibility should be transparent, accountable and flexible in its approaches and operations. The CLA will have to improve the public's perception; as 46 per cent of cannabis interest groups lack confidence in the capacity of the CLA to effectively regulate the industry. Sixty-two per cent of these persons said that they were willing to receive-third party certification, while 38 per cent are in opposition. Policy recommendations emanating from the research imply that the cost of licence should be invoiced in the local currency - JA$ - and the CLA should take a more transparent approach towards licensing in the industry.


How shall Jamaica Proceed?


There are clear economic and social benefits to be had from fully exploiting all the cultivation and production possibilities of the cannabis plant through horizontal and vertical diversification and linkages. A pressing concern is whether or not the benefits to be derived from the cannabis industry are greater than the costs of its cultivation, production and consumption to the non-cannabis-smoking taxpayer. Due to the level of progress made to date within the Jamaican cannabis economy, cannabis interest groups would welcome a move towards third-party certification.