Thu | Aug 11, 2022

Dunn keen to build potent medical ganja sector

State minister promises to revise regulations, address banking issues

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2022 | 12:07 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer
Dr Norman Dunn, minister of state in the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce, addressing the gathering at the unveiling of Epican Jamaica’s 16 new strains of cannabis on Wednesday, June 15.
Dr Norman Dunn, minister of state in the Ministry of Industry Investment and Commerce, addressing the gathering at the unveiling of Epican Jamaica’s 16 new strains of cannabis on Wednesday, June 15.
Ganja plants growing in front of house in St Catherine.
Ganja plants growing in front of house in St Catherine.
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The state minister of industry, investment and commerce is promising to energise efforts to address long-standing issues that have stymied the development of Jamaica’s medical ganja industry.

“We are aware of the long-standing issues that continue to stymie the development of the local medical cannabis industry, some of which include issues with the processes for securing approvals for locally produced cannabis products, and the lack of a regime to allow doctors to recommend cannabis products,” Dr Norman Dunn said at the unveiling of 16 new strains of cannabis at Epican Jamaica on Wednesday, June 15.

High on the list, too, are: the need for urgent revisions to the interim regulations, the lack of access to financing and banking services; the need for export promotion and market access; the limited inclusion of traditional and small-scale farmers due to the high cost of licences, security bonds and security requirements.

“Developing this key industry is therefore high on my ministry’s list of priorities, and we are implementing several measures to foster its full potential,” he said.

Collaborating with other state entities is key as the Government looks to develop the industry to capitalise on local and international commercial opportunities. Thus, proposals from the Cannabis Task Force for a national lab with state-of-the-art equipment for optimal testing capabilities to be established and for engaging with local financial institutions to find a solution to facilitate financing and banking for cannabis companies are under consideration.

Dunn revealed that having built a “solid foundation” for regulatory compliance by establishing licensing and enforcement protocols for the industry, the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) is now in the ‘CLA 2.0 phase’, where focus is on maximising export market potential, value-added products, inclusion, enhanced customer experience, and integration with other industries.

The CLA has so far issued 100 licences for cultivation, processing, transport, research and development, and the retail of ganja for medicinal purposes. The most popular category was for small farms of less than one acre. “With every new licensee, new jobs are being created. Not just directly within the medical cannabis industry, but through both backward and forward linkages with industries such as construction, security, waste management, packaging, testing and analytical services, and customer service delivery,” Dunn stated.

MEDICAL CANNABIS

He also said that the CLA had increased its efforts to implement those measures that would ensure “parity, sustainability and profitability for the industry”, and that the agency had also been “working diligently” to improve its internal processes to better support the medical cannabis industry, including pursuing ISO 9001:2015 certification.

“Our stakeholders can, therefore, be assured that they will receive services in line with the applicable statutory and regulatory requirements and that adhere to internationally established best practices,” he said.

In the next few months, the Government expects to effect more changes that will better facilitate the business for licensees, including pushing key amendments to the legislation, which were informed by consultations with licensees and from lessons learnt over the past five years.

Forty-five export authorisations have been issued in the past three months, bringing the total since inception to 185. Recipient regions for these exports include North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

“I encourage industry players to scale up their operations so that we can expand the number of receiving countries as well as the amounts that we export,” he said.

Dunn encouraged all stakeholders to pay attention to the standards that would make their products stand out locally and internationally. Steeped in Jamaica’s rich culture, the industry and commerce state minister urged stakeholders to capitalise on this to secure “our place as the premier provider of medicinal cannabis to the global market”.

“As key players in the industry you are already aware that Jamaica does not have a monopoly on high-grade cannabis and we have to nurture the integrity of our products for the increasingly discerning consumer,” he reminded the gathering.

The vision is “to have a medical, therapeutic, and scientific cannabis industry that creates equal opportunities, enables people’s health and wellness with safe and diverse products, fosters investor confidence, and strengthens the Jamaican economy through an effective regulatory framework”.

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