VIDEO: Young entrepreneur eyes first medical ganja dispensary
BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
RAVN Rae aspires to launch the first boutique medical marijuana dispensary in Jamaica. But for now, she settles on being just an apparatus supplier complementing an industry still operating outside the law locally.
"Marijuana is not legal, so I cannot have the product in the store," she stressed to the Business Observer when our news team visited her store on Monday.
Rae's store, Mez Jamaica, is one of Kingston's first established alternative smoking supplies shops. Ironically located just a stone's throw away from the Office of the Prime Minister on Devon Road, Mez offers a wide variety of 'pot-friendly' items such as water pipes or 'bongs', chalices and vaporisers.
The store has been open since October last year and its brand has been gaining traction in the nation's capital.
"It was derived out of inconvenience, people having to order online or travel to some other part of the island to get an apparatus," Rae, 27, told the newspaper.
"It was surprising that there was no store of this nature in Jamaica, considering how heavy we use marijuana and how well known we are for it," she added.
Clients vary across a wide demographic of adults 18 and over, with differing preferences in smoking accessories. The vaporisers are among the most popular products, and are especially a hit with the corporate white-collar workers, according to Rae, who noted that the trend has been fuelled by the government's ban on smoking in public spaces.
Vaporisation is an alternative to burning used for the inhalation of the active ingredients from
ganja or tobacco, thus avoiding harmful by-products. There is no second-hand smoke, tar or ash involved, when using vaporisers, as they function similarly to electronic cigarettes.
"I focus heavily on wellness, and with the new smoking ban in place, it has led people to looking at vaporising which is definiely a healthier option than combusting herbs," Rae said.
With decriminalisation of marijuana possibly around the corner, Rae is positioned to capitalise on her dream. Government plans to decriminalise ganja this year, paving the way for the establishment of a medicinal marijuana industry estimated to be worth billions of dollars.
Rae describes herself as very health conscious. Her vision for Mez is for it to be the first local boutique marijuana dispensary where one can go and get professional advice and directives on how to use the herb safely.
"I didn't start this anticipating or knowing that decriminalising was around the corner, but it has definitely complemented this aspect of my business and I am really happy to be an advocate of the medicinal aspect (of marijuana), to help people who need it and provide an area that is professional and safe, where they can receive the advice that they need," said Rae, adding that the plan is for the store to also feature a 'vape bar'.
Mez attracted the attention of Delano Seiveright, director of the Cannabis Commercial and Medicinal Research Taskforce
and Ganja Law Reform Coalition, who recruited her to join the movement.
"They are looking for people from different fields so that they can get a better understanding as they go forward in pushing this initiative. They understand that I am very passionate about the medicinal aspect and one of the only persons that offers this wide range of products at one location," Rae said.
According to the young entrepreneur, there have been a few detractors who are not fully informed about her store offerings or the positive value of marijuana.
"You have one and two people who come in here and don't understand the nature of a store like this, saying that this is a 'weed store', which is far from the truth right now because that is illegal and I have to remain within the right of the law," Rae said.
She added: "We need to take down this whole stereotype of marijuana being a bad thing. We need to look at the positive aspect and not just the negative. The whole world is doing it and Jamaica needs not to be left behind."