Business

No business focus

Chung laments CLA bureaucratic system

BY KARENA BENNETT
Business reporter
bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, November 03, 2017

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Chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Dennis Chung, has again lamented that the bureaucratic system has caused Jamaica to lose billions in revenue, this time in the medical marijuana industry.

“Jamaica is established for marijuana and it is ironic that since there has been a push globally to legalise the use of medical marijuana, we've missed the boat in many respects, and primarily because of our bureaucracy,” Chung told the Jamaica Observer during the launch of six cannabis-based products at Eden Gardens in Kingston.

The function, dubbed “Medicanja is now open for business”, saw the introduction of six products, namely canjaCol, relevium cream, relevium spray, canjarub, somnican and tivasat to be used for the treatment of pains, swelling and strains. The products, which have been in production since 2013, will be available in more than 20 pharmacies islandwide by next week.

But before the milestone celebration could end, a few of the speakers yesterday used the platform to voice their grouses about how long it has taken the Cannibis Licensing Authority (CLA) to approve only two licences, leaving Jamaica to lag behind the United States.

“It continues to wreak havoc and I think we have messed it up. The truth is that the licensing authority is way too bureaucratic. They don't have a business focus in mind; rather they have a legal focus,” Chung told the Caribbean Business Report.

The CEO also pointed to the high licensing fees being charged by the CLA, causing many small business operators to be squeezed out of the industry.

“So what they are going to have is a set of privileged people who have licences and no real competition to drive the industry. I don't know why someone like Dr Lowe has to be grappling with this issue of licences so long when he has been embraced internationally as developer of the orphan drug,” he reasoned.

Renowned research scientist, entrepreneur and founder of Medicanja, Dr Henry Lowe, has already spent north of US$6 million in developing the company. His vision is for Medicanja Ltd to become the hub for Latin America and the Caribbean in the research, development and commercialisation of world-class medicinal and industrial products made from cannabis and hemp within the next five years.

The launch of products marks Jamaica's entry into a US$1.5-billion industry, but it was not without major hurdles and restrictions from the CLA.

To date, the authority, which has been in existence since 2015, has granted two commercial licences to cultivator Epican and processor Everything Oily. But before the companies can begin operation, they await clearance from the Ministry of National Security on each of its employees.

A total of 236 applications were submitted earlier this year.

“The other thing is that they issue licences in various stages. So for the production, retail part of it they have issued licence, but they haven't issued licenses for the transportation, so they will have to step in and provide that service. I don't think that enough of a business approach is taken to look properly at regulating and establishing the industry. The CLA has been operating now for two years and all they have issued is two licences — that's ridiculous!” Chung said.

“You're talking about developing a drug that has the potential to deal with cancer and glaucoma; you're talking about billions of dollars, especially if we hit the global market,” he continued.

Chung added that a number of international investors have visited the office of the PSOJ expressing interest in the cannabis industry, but have since diverted their investment after being faced with the bureaucratic system.

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