Shaw encouraged by Senator Kamala Harris' recent support for ganja legalisation

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James –Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw is fired up by United States presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris' recent support for marijuana legalisation.

“I was very encouraged to see a presidential candidate of Jamaican heritage, Kamala Harris, who came out last week to speak up on the issue of speeding up the legalisation of marijuana. I think the United States has to take a very urgent look at it,” Shaw said.

He added: “I have been encouraged by the utterances of Mr [William] Barr, the incoming attorney general, who has taken a more enlightened view than Mr [Jeff)]Sessions who has gone from that position.”

Marijuana remains an illegal drug, according to US Federal law, which results in the closing of accounts of investors in the medical cannabis industry. But Shaw has pledged to use all available diplomatic resources at his disposal to pressure the United States government to reconsider the de-risking banking arrangements surrounding medical marijuana, as it concerns medical cannabis.

“I intend, from my end, using all available diplomatic resources — including our ambassador in Washington — to really mount a significant lobbying effort with the government in the United States, primarily through the secretary of the Treasury of the United States. because the issue is that we have entered into a licensing arrangement, we have a Cannabis Licensing Authority,” the minister said.

“We are operating at global standards and we are therefore in a position where we can convince the United States and global economy that we are prepared to operate at the standards that are expected of us. And in that context I think it is very unfair for the American Government to be using their banking arrangements to be stalling our arrangements.”

He argued that the “big countries have apparently found a way around it”.

“Countries like Canada, European countries, others, they seem to have found their way around it. Even states of the United States seem to have found their way around it,” Shaw pointed out.

He lamented the ironic circumstances in which a local scientist's bank account was closed shortly after he was granted approval to develop a cannabis-based drug to fight leukaemia by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The Food and Drug Administration of the United States, it's the FDA gave him that approval, and our local bank closed his account because of those same de-risking arrangements. Something is fundamentally wrong with that and therefore that is why I am going to be putting a lot of energy into the lobbying effort,” the senior government minister said.

He noted that Jamaica's marijuana is highly regarded in the global arena, but the banking arrangement is one of the major impediments facing the boom of the industry.

“Jamaica still has a foremost position globally in the brand, so what is holding us back now from taking maximum advantage of that branding is the banking arrangements, because all of our banks are linked to the United States. Everyone has to go through New York — that's our issue,” Shaw noted.

He was speaking to reporters after the opening of Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited's new distribution centre in Freeport, St James, on Tuesday.

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