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Hylton wants clarity on Government's import policy following ganja importation saga

Published:Saturday | March 18, 2023 | 1:03 PM
Opposition Spokesman on Industry Anthony Hylton said in light of Holness' comments, Hill has more explaining to do.  - File photo

The Opposition People's National Party (PNP) says Prime Minister Andrew Holness' "rebuke" of Industry Minister Aubyn Hill over the importation of ganja from Canada highlights the need for clarification of the Government's policy on imports. 

The Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA), an agency of Hill's ministry, approved a company  to import 140 kilograms of cannabis (308.647 pounds) for research purposes, a move met with widespread scepticism by industry players.

On Thursday, Holness made public his views  on the matter saying, "I agreed with everyone who is upset about the importation of ganja from Canada".

"I said to the minister, 'ensure that that situation is corrected'. ...the minister may not be at fault but he's responsible," Holness said as he wrapped up his contribution to the 2023 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives. His comments were cheered by government MPs.

Hill was seated in the chamber. 

Acknowledging international restrictions, Holness said special attention needs to be placed on the industry because "it has great potential". He said before the growing global commercial popularity of marijuana, "we were the ones in the struggle". 

"Minister [Hill] is going to pay special attention and put special effort into getting that industry back up to the point where we don't need to even consider importation from any other country. Whatever strains and special strains there are, they can be grown right here," Holness insisted. 

Opposition Spokesman on Industry Anthony Hylton said in light of Holness' comments, Hill has more explaining to do. 

Hylton said he believes two things may be at play. "Either the minister has not paid attention to what's happening at the CLA or the minister is in error. One of the two; either way, it's a bad situation because he had the opportunity to come to Parliament and say exactly what the prime minister said".  

The spokesman argued that Holness' "rebuke" of Hill comes "clearly after the Prime Minister has seen the polls and how mad the industry is". 

Critics, including Hylton, have argued that the CLA's decision came against the background of local players encountering roadblocks in accessing the market of the North American country. 

At a parliamentary committee on March 1, Hill defended the CLA's decision and said he was not aware of any impediments to local interests.

Hill is expected to answer questions tabled in the House by Hylton at the next sitting. 

The Ganja Growers and Producers Association, Jamaica said it was "stunned" by the CLA's decision. 

In a March 3 statement, the Christopher McPherson-chaired CLA said the import authorisation was done in keeping with the designated regulations.

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