Let's not become the butt of the ganja trade joke

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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Dear Editor,

In 2017 it was announced that Canada would be legalising marijuana in 2018. This was achieved by way of the Cannabis Act in Canada on October 17, 2018, making Canada the largest country to legalise marijuana for recreational use, and sending plumes of celebratory smoking rising over its territories.

This poses a prime opportunity for countries to tap into a burgeoning marijuana market that will no doubt experience shortages in the first few years.

By countries, I really refer to one: Jamaica. With its proximity to mainland North America and its notoriety for marijuana potency, Jamaica has a comparative advantage in the exportation of what is soon to become a cash crop and the sugar cane of the 21st century, if we act quickly. Failure to do so may see us losing that advantage and once again becoming the butt of the economic joke.

Many are still reluctant, reasonably so, due to what they perceive to be international law-related issues and treaties to which Jamaica is signatory. However, these international instruments make provisions and exceptions for legal trade of the crop under well-controlled systems between countries.

Article 31 of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs gave several exceptions under which marijuana can be traded between two countries, implicitly through bilateral agreements so long as the local laws and regulations are observed. Article 30 also speaks to the licensing of such traders/exporters, and makes clear provisions for such an economic activity.

Article 16 of the UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988) states: “1. Each party shall require that lawful exports of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances be properly documented. In addition to the requirements for documentation under article 31 of the 1961 convention, article 31 of the 1961 convention as amended and article 12 of the 1971 convention, commercial documents such as invoices, cargo manifests, Customs…the quantity being exported, and the name and address of the exporter, the importer and, when available, the consignee.”

These and other treaties prohibit the 'illicit' transport of drugs and make clear provisions for legal trade between countries.

I do not know exactly where the Government is on the issue of a trade agreement with Canada; however, I would insist that we act quickly and decisively before we lose not just a brilliant opportunity but our comparative advantage.

Kemoy Lindsay

kemoy.a.lindsay@gmail.com

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