Medical marijuana licence for tourists proposed

Medical marijuana licence for tourists proposed

American ganja tester says Ja could earn US$10 million annually

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter

Saturday, November 15, 2014

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An American marijuana tester believes Jamaica could earn US$10 million (J$1.1 billion) annually from charging tourists a licence to consume medical ganja.

"Jamaica is already a cannabis tourist destination," said David Lampach, chief executive at US-based Steep Hill Halent Labs, in his address at the Scientific Research Council biennial conference on November 12 in Kingston. "You can capture tourist dollars while also honouring conventions. If 5.0 per cent of tourists pay US$100 you can earn US$10 million a year in tax revenues."

The figures are anecdotal, but showcase one aspect of potential revenue from a regulated ganja industry. Lampach was one of many ganja experts who spoke at the two-day conference held under the theme 'Green Gold: Medicinal Ganja and other natural products (A potential source of Wealth)' at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

He said that although the plant remains illegal, tourists can gain legal exemption on medical grounds. As a result, they would "enjoy the Jamaica cannabis experience in comfort" without fear of violating the country's laws. He added that Jamaica can utilise the case study of Nevada, the US state which earns tax revenues from medical marijuana tourism. The state decriminalised the drug but it still remains illegal.

"When a medical cannabis patient arrives in Nevada they show their identification with a medical cannabis doctor's recommendation and sign an affidavit, pay a fee and are legally permitted to consume cannabis while in state," he said. "A similar framework could occur in Jamaica to capture tourist dollars and also honour the country's international treaty obligations."

Steep Hill Halent is a licensed laboratory that tests the potency of medical ganja. The business of ganja gained legitimacy amid the relaxation of laws in the US states of Colorado and Washington followed by Maryland, Oregon, and Alaska.

The Jamaica Government in September drafted legislation to fast-track the decriminalisation of small quantities of ganja, whilst also modifying the Dangerous Drugs Act, in order to set rules for the cultivation and use of medical ganja and industrial hemp.

In 2011, the medical marijuana industry in the United States was worth US$1.7 billion. It is projected that by 2016 it will grow to US$9 billion.

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