You may call it marijuana, cannabis, weed, Mary Jane, reefer, but in Jamaica, it is called “ganja.” It’s the herb used for medication, meditation, and intoxication. But whatever you call this herb, it is a herb with great medicinal benefits, and these benefits of ganja are creating this Global Green Rush. There is nothing new about ganja, but legalization is new. It is our new economy, the Green Rush which Jamaica can strategically be a global player. Why?, Jamaica is the largest island in the Caribbean, equatorially located with a sunny climate for 70% of daylight hours and 12 hours of sunlight. It produces ganja with 27% THC and is the home of the mythical and legendary ganja strain: the Landrace Strain or Lamb’s Bread (a Sativa hybrid), only found in Jamaica. This strain is acclimated to the local outdoor growing conditions, soil, and climate of Jamaica. Thus, given that this strain has a unique genetic profile that only can be found in Jamaica, the island can command a premium price for purchase and export. This indigenous strain is your history, your culture, your brand. However, Jamaica must protect and preserve this landrace, which is an important part of the heritage as well as the sacramental rights of the Rastafari.
To become a global player, Jamaica must produce quality finished products that are compliant with European good manufacturing practices (euGMP) for medicinal use. The regulatory bodies-the Cannabis Licensing Authority, the Chief Medical Officer, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries- must establish a regulatory framework work that will allow for: (1) exportation, (2) quality control and assurance, (3) third-party testing and certificates of analysis for flower, concentrate/oils, and infused products; (4) patient advocacy programs and medical research/development, (5) protection of the landrace strain and the Rastafarian collectives/ sacraments, (6) establish social responsibility provisions in which a percentage of the application and licensing fees as well as the percentage of legal providers profits’, will be reinvested and regenerated back into the parishes, (7) an equity provision that not only protects the small farmers(Original Growers(OGs)) in Westmoreland-Red Hills/Spur Tree Hill and others, but it also allows for fee exemptions for OGs provided that their cultivating/processing farms are compliant/operational by encouraging craft and artisanal growing methods, (8) providing OGs stipends to become legal producers including job training by taking a percentage of the application and licensing fees. The OGs must have a voice to expunge and dismiss the convictions of the 70% of the citizens convicted of simple marijuana possession. Thus, eliminating one of many barriers of entry into this ganja industry. (9) LAMP (Land Enforcement) must ensure that landowners leasing and selling their land for ganja cultivation, processing, and retail are paid the fair market value for their property. Remember, that land never depreciates. (10) LAMP must protect the environment from further industrial waste and dumping, coastal water pollution, and air pollution, (11) eliminate fraudulent partnerships, and (12) develop ancillary opportunities in the ganja industry that do not require a person to touch the plant.
The Jamaican Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) has issued 44 medical licenses since August 2019. The categories for cannabis licenses are (1) Cultivators, (2) Processing, (3) Transport, (4) Retail, and (5) Research and Development. The following groups can apply: (1) individuals (residents of Jamaica), (2) companies registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica (49/51% partnership) with substantial ownership and control by a resident of Jamaica), and (3) Cooperatives and Societies under the Cooperative Societies or Friendly Societies Act. The application and license fees range from $300 to $500 US dollars. The licensing fees range from $2,000 to $10,000 US dollars. This does not include a refundable Bond Fee of $3,000 US dollars. For more detailed information, go online to www.cla.org.jn.
In closing, for Jamaica to get a piece of this $89 billion ganja market by 2023, it must produce quality finished ganja products in an established medical and adult-use markets. I understand wanting to do business with the US and wanting to wait for the Senate to pass the Safe Banking Act, but the US must not only pass the Safe Banking Act, but it must also completely de-schedule cannabis and not schedule it to one of the four remaining schedules.
Thoughts and Opinions of Michelle Fields Esq, October 2019.